BATS living in an abandoned Marsden mill are set to get a home of their own.
Plans for a purpose built ‘bat barn’ – thought to be the first in Kirklees – come as an Oldham based developer bids to transform Cellars Clough Mills into 114 apartments without harming any of the bats.
The re-homing of the bats now hinges on two planning applications and the granting of a bat licence by Government conservation agency, Natural England.
If successful, bats living in the Colne Valley could have some of the finest conditions around and local conservationist hope to see them thrive.
Planning agent, Alan Chorlton, acting for builder Smith Developments Ltd, said it was their second application for the mill after their 2006 proposal was withdrawn.
He said: “We knew there were bats there, but we weren’t aware of the extent the first time round.
“It was only when we did a full ecological survey around the building that we realised.”
Mr Chorlton added it was quite common to have to accommodate bats in new developments but said it was the first time he’d had to provide a separate building, forcing him to have to go back to the drawing board.
John Drewett, an adviser from Natural England’s Bat Helpline, confirmed that the onus was on the developer and not Kirklees Council, to re-house the bats before any work could begin.
“They might have to show that the bat barn has worked before they get a licence,” he said.
“And there’s a fine of up to £5,000 for each offence or six months in prison.”
But Geoff Keenlyside, an environment officer for Kirklees Council, who has been involved in the project, said bats had been moved before and this was standard practice.
He said: “There’s a bat roost in the roof of the mill – a couple of species.
“Because they are a protected species it raises issues about disturbing them. There’s going to be too many people in that building to leave them there.
“We hope this work will enhance the bat population around the mill and make sure they are managed properly,” he added.
West Yorkshire Bat Group spokesman, John Gregory, said he was aware a survey had been done on the mill but could not comment on the finer details of the plans, but added, it seemed broadly in line with their strategy.
The species in Cellars Clough Mill are the common pipistrelle and the brown long eared, but bat survey work by the River Colne Project and WYBG has identified eight types of bats are present in the Colne Valley area.
The barn itself will be deliberately built with gaps in the walls and roof ridge for the bats to crawl through, and baffles in the roof space and the floor for roosting, and will not be accessible by the public.
The bats will not be captured or forcibly evicted, instead encouraged to move from the mill through the creation of more appealing conditions in the new bat barn.
Kirklees’ planners are due to decide the two applications by the end of the month.