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‘A waste of money’ - bat bridges over Norwich’s NDR slammed

PUBLISHED: 06:51 14 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:14 15 October 2018

A Barbastelle bat. Pic by Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

A Barbastelle bat. Pic by Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

The bat bridges built over Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road were a “waste of money”, according to a councillor wants no more to be constructed if the road’s so-called ‘missing link’ comes to fruition.

Bev Spratt, Conservative councillor for West Depwade. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Bev Spratt, Conservative councillor for West Depwade. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Seven bat gantries have been built along the £205m road, which stretches from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road.

Designed to help bats cross roads, the bridges feature wire mesh strung high over the carriageway between two poles.

They are intended to replicate removed hedgerows and trees, giving the bats a reference point for sonar, so they avoid the roads.

However, a study into similar £350,000 bridges on the A11 concluded those gantries were not effective, although council bosses pushed ahead with them on the NDR saying there was no consensus of expert opinion to convince them to ditch them.

A bat bridge. Picture: Matthew Usher.A bat bridge. Picture: Matthew Usher.

At a recent meeting of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, the possibility of a Western Link, to connect the NDR, now known as the Broadland Northway, to the A47 to the west of Norwich was discussed.

But Beverley Spratt, Conservative councillor for West Depwade, said, if that road does end up being built, he did not want bat bridges to be provided along it.

He said: “The NDR is a great success and in my area I am getting good responses to it from everyone. But, please, when we plan the Western Link - and everyone wants it - let’s not put bat bridges up.

“When I go on hte NDR, I never see any bats anywhere near them. Can we see a report on whether they work, because I think they are a waste of money?”

David Allfrey, highway and major projects manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “There is a significant bat population alongside the NDR and they were detected prior to delivery.”

He said statutory bodies were involved in agreeing the mitigation which needed to be provided as part of the construction of the road.

He added: “Clearly we will continue to monitor them and we will look at how successful these bat bridges are.”

The committee did agree to the next round of consultation over the Western Link. Next month, potential routes for the road will be revealed and the public invited to comment.

Bats along the NDR

The area along the route of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road is of national importance for bats.

Ten different species were identified through surveys conducted before construction work started, including colonies of rare Barbastelles, pipistrelles, natterer’s and brown long-eared bats.

In total, more than 130 roosts were identified along the route of the road.

A number of bat roosts in trees and buildings were lost, and bat houses were built to provide replacement roosts in two locations, along with bat boxes within woodlands close to the route.

The 12.5 mile road also cut across established bat foraging flight paths, which was why a new design of wire bat gantries were installed to help keep bats clear of traffic.

There were also green bridges created on Marriott’s Way and Middle Road (carrying hedgerows over the NDR), an underpass, and bat friendly features on other bridges.

Lottery cash could help churches and bats

Norfolk churches which host large bat roosts could get help thanks to a groundbreaking project which has been awarded £3.8m by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Natural England’s scheme will see a five year partnership project, bringing together wildlife, heritage conservation and church organisations, to save bats and protect churches for future generations.

Loss of natural habitats means some bat species have been forced to find safe havens in buildings, including historic churches.

Many church communities live harmoniously with bat roosts. However, in some cases, bats are causing damage to historically significant church monuments and memorials.

In 2014, the Bishop of Norwich warned that bat excrement was making churches unhygienic and a lack of funding to deal with the issue could lead to a “crisis”.

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