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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Church bat mess gets up MP's nose
Bat generic
Worshippers at St Hilda's fear the bats pose a health hazard
Bat excrement is ruining a historic church and driving worshippers away, according to a North Yorkshire MP.

Ryedale MP John Greenway wants a change in the law to protect St Hilda's in Ellerburn, near Thornton-le-Dale, from its four species of protected bat.

Parishioners want to confine the bats to the roof, but need a special licence under current legislation.

Mr Greenway told the Commons: "It is proving impossible for the bats and congregation to live side by side."

Dwindling congregation

The 1,000-year-old Saxon church is home to whiskered, pipistrelle, natterer's and brown long-eared bats.

Mr Greenway says bat urine and faeces in the church are ruining the interior and causing congregation numbers to fall.

John Greenway MP
Mr Greenway told the Commons the church faces closure due to the bats

He said: "The congregation finds suggestions that somehow or other they should have to put up with the constant deluge of urine and faeces throughout every summer a trifle hard to take."

At present, it is an offence to kill, injure or disturb any of Britain's 16 species of bat.

But Mr Greenway argues the species "cannot be said to be close to extinction" as there are 24 natterer's colonies in North Yorkshire alone.

Nature conservation minister Ben Bradshaw said that under existing laws churches could apply for licences which would allow them to move the bats.

He urged St Hilda's to apply for a licence, saying that he did not believe a general exemption for churches was justified when it appeared the situation could be dealt with by the law as it stands.

Church pushes for bat law change
17 May 04  |  North Yorkshire
Bats put congregation in a flap
24 Apr 04  |  North Yorkshire

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