Pipistrelle Bat numbers are in decline
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
A loss of natural roost sites for bats means that they have become increasingly dependent on historic houses like cottage, barns and country houses for both their winter and summer roosts.
Bat species including the lesser horseshoe, greater horseshoe, serotine and pipistrelle bats that have all declined drastically in numbers in the last 30 years.
Conservationists are so concerned that the endangered animals are being driven out of their roosts they have issued a report advising home owners to always assume bats are present before undertaking even the most basic work. For example checking a smoke alarm could cause problems during the nesting season.
The report by the National Trust, English Heritage and Natural England advises anyone carrying building work to check for nesting bats first.
The penalty for destroying a bat roost is a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.
Dr David Bullock, head of nature conservation at the National Trust, said bats and buildings can live together by making adjustments at the right time of year or building around roosts.
"If considerations about bats aren't at the heart of any building work, and our old buildings aren't maintained, then they both face an uncertain future," he said.
"As their natural roost sites have been lost, traditional buildings have become vital to the life cycle and without them many species of rare and threatened bat could struggle to survive."
Poul Christensen, acting chairman of Natural England said the way in which traditional buildings were looked after would play a key role in sustaining bat populations in the UK.
"Bats should not be viewed as a developer's nightmare or a homeowner's curse – they are adaptable and most bat problems can be easily resolved with a bit of planning and some simple building techniques enabling bats to be accommodated as interesting and unobtrusive neighbours."