The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 10th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made, if any, of the value of damage caused by bats to the contents and fabric of (1) church buildings, and (2) other historical buildings.
Lord Benyon (Con): No specific assessments of the value of damage caused by bats to the contents and fabric of church buildings and other historical buildings have been made.
Natural England’s Bats in Churches project has been working closely with the Church of England to find workable solutions that both protect bats and enable churches to manage impacts without prohibitive costs. The project has worked with volunteers to carry out surveys at over 650 churches to understand the impact of bats and has provided support and funding to 108 churches to create practical, tailored solutions.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what grants are available to repair medieval artwork damaged by bats in (1) church buildings, and (2) other historical buildings.
Lord Kamall (Con): The £42 million per annum government funded Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme refunds the VAT incurred on the costs of repair and maintenance of Listed Places of Worship of all faiths and denominations. Under the scheme, repairs to wall paintings and murals are eligible as well as works to repair damage to the fabric of the building and mitigation measures to reduce or prevent damage caused by bats.
A Church of England congregation seeking advice on how to assess and address any damage is advised to contact the Head of Conservation at the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, who may also signpost funders who have supported conservation projects in the past.
Those concerned about other historic buildings will find advice on historic wall paintings, their conservation and how to find an appropriate conservator on the Historic England website: https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/technical-advice/buildings/decorative-features/wall-paintings/(opens in a new tab).
The Heritage Fund is currently funding a five year long Bats in Churches project that provides practical help and advice on the mitigation and management of bats. The project gives congregations the confidence to cope with their bats positively while giving regard to their protected status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended) and The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017) (as amended). The project runs until October 2023 and will continue to support and enable churches until it closes.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government how many (1) church buildings, and (2) other historical buildings, in the UK are adversely affected by the presence of bat roosts.
Lord Kamall: Whilst His Majesty’s Government does not directly hold this information, we are aware of data through the Bats in Churches project, which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is a partnership between Natural England, Historic England, Church of England, Bat Conservation Trust, and Churches Conservation Trust. The project aims to bring together the parties to create solutions to allow bats to be managed in churches either by their exclusion or by restricting access within the church itself to concealed roof spaces. The project has accumulated some data about the prevalence of bats in ecclesiastical buildings.
This data highlighted that around 60% of pre-16th century churches contain bat roosts, many home to nationally important breeding colonies. Churches are known to house larger roosts than other, natural sites.
Of 120 churches with bats consulted by the project partnership, for the 2015 project questionnaire, 90 churches reported damage caused by bats to the fabric of the church building, 81 churches reported damage to more than one monument, and 97 churches reported damage to fixtures and fittings.