Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:42 UK

Bat house costs developer 20,000

House built for bat
The one-room structure provides a suitable roof space for bats to breed

A £20,000 heated house has been built for a legally-protected bat in East Sussex after a property developer was told to protect its habitat.

Permission to demolish two houses and build nine flats in Heathfield was given on condition that bats living there were given an alternative home.

A brown long-eared bat had been found in the roof of one of the houses.

Geoffrey Key, from Summerville Developments, said the decision was "costly but faintly amusing".

Stephen Prosser, a consultant ecologist, was asked by the developers to carry out two surveys of the semi-detached properties in the High Street to be knocked down.

Biological indicators

He said he found one legally-protected brown long-eared bat and about 800 droppings from brown long-eared and pipistrelle bats in 2007.

Mr Prosser said: "The fact that they are fully protected immediately means you know there is a route you're going to have to follow.

"All bats are extremely important. They are biological indicators - if you have plenty of species of bat around you know you have good biodiversity."

British bats had "suffered very seriously" in recent years because of damage to their environment.

Natural England provided the requirements for the new one-roomed structure to create a suitable roof space for breeding bats, which can live up to 30 years.

Planning permission for the development of the site was granted by Wealden District Council last year, but work could not begin until the bat house was complete.

Mr Key, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: "I just feel that perhaps we have gone a step too far in the protection of one bat which as of today no-one has seen.

"And we've spent £20,000 to £30,000 building that structure for this phantom bat that is heated on the say-so of an ecologist who found some droppings in the house.

"If it were a bear or a gorilla or some serious endangered species perhaps I would view this differently, but it is one bat that no-one's seen."

Special 20,000 home built for bats

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