Horsham church launches £100k project to protect the bats

Work has begun on a £100,000 project to help the people and bats of West Grinstead’s 11th century, Grade I listed St George’s Church.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 2:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 2:22 pm

The project, funded by the Bats in Churches partnership, will see a false roof reinstated below the timber beams of the historic building to allow bats to roost in the church without disturbing the congregation.

It is the largest and most expensive project by Bats in Churches, a partnership between Natural England, Bat Conservation Trust, the Church of England, Churches Conservation Trust and Historic England, majority funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

St George’s is home to several species of bats and the church has lived with its bat population for many generations. However, the nocturnal occupants cause damage to nationally significant historic monuments.

£100k project launches for bats in West Grinstead

Contrary to popular belief, there is no health risk to humans from bats, the project said.

Bats are a protected species and Bats in Churches has issued a licence for the works, overseen by ecologists.

The project will create a wildlife-friendly solution to improve the habitat for the bats, whilst protecting and preserving the church for community use.

The Rev Alison Letschka, Priest in Charge, said: “St George’s is a very engaging church and I’m not surprised that local bats enjoy it too. It’s a place where we praise God for all of creation.

£100k project launches for bats in West Grinstead

“We are delighted that Bats in Churches are making it possible for bats and church users to co-exist and for the fabric of the church to be preserved for future generations. The new ceiling will greatly enhance the church not just for weddings, but first and foremost for worship Sunday by Sunday, and also for community events, school visits, concerts and so on. Keeping faith alive, welcoming everyone and welcoming the bats too.”

In addition to funding the ceiling works, Bats in Churches has also supported St George’s by appointing experts to assist with protection of historic monuments, electrical and lighting work, as well as data and information about the bat population and the sustainability of the church.

Honor Gay, engagement officer from Bats in Churches, said: “This is a very exciting project marking a major investment into a Grade I listed building, and intervention with the bat population to keep the church community functional.”

The work should be completed by late November and has been timed to cause minimal disturbance to the bat population before it goes into hibernation.