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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 13:13 GMT
Rare bats given 420,000 roost
Paston Great Barn (Photo: Malcolm Crowder)
It was planned to use the barn as a visitor centre
A 16th Century barn which is undergoing a near 500,000 renovation has been given over to a breeding colony of rare bats.

English Nature has taken a 50-year lease on the Grade II listed Paston Great Barn in Norfolk after the group of barbastelle bats were discovered living in the building.

Originally, the barn was restored with a view to being used as a visitor centre for the nearby Interconnector gas plant and a study facility for the local environment.

Since the bats were found, however, a management group has been formed to try and allow limited public access while protecting the rare animals.

Barbastelle bat (Photo: Norfolk Bat Group)
It is rare to find a maternal colony of bats
The barn was built in 1581 and is home to about 30 female bats and 13 of their young.

Rob Cooke, Norfolk Team Manager for English Nature, said: "The barbastelle is a threatened species across Europe and Paston Barn is the only known maternal colony in a building in the UK.

"They are sensitive to disturbance and the challenge now is to find a way to allow public access to the building without disturbing the bats.

"We are holding delicate negotiations as to how visitor access may be achieved."

'Public commitment'

The building is owned by the North Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, which had other plans for it before the bats were discovered.

The trust's surveyor and secretary, Malcolm Crowder, told BBC News Online: "The Interconnector gas plant provided 100,000 for repairs to the barn and 320,000 came from English Heritage, but there is more work to do.

"Initially, we wanted to house visitor centres for the gas works, the Paston Society and the local ecology and environment.

"The most important thing at the moment is to ensure the building is in a safe, secure condition and is looked after so it does not deteriorate.

"There is a commitment to establish some public access and I would like to see the infra-red studies of the bats made accessible."

Currently, the Norfolk Bat Group is monitoring the animals and the barn has been declared Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It has also been proposed to make the site a European Special Area of Conservation.


Click here to go to Norfolk
See also:

10 Oct 02 | England
09 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
01 Jul 02 | England
23 Aug 99 | Science/Nature
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