The discovery of a colony of bats has slowed work on Newcastle University’s demolition of Richardson Road. The former student accommodation site is home to the largest gathering of maternal bats in Newcastle.
The bats spend June and July in the trees surrounding Richardson Road before entering the sturdier ‘Ricky Road’ flats for the colder months. They normally used the attics to raise their young during winter, but now face the gruelling Newcastle winter in two hastily erected bat houses.
Mark Anderson, Site Manager, said: “They are treated like royalty! It can take a long time for bats to resettle when they are moved. A lot of schools, in fact recently a package of about 12, built in the 1940s and 1950s had bats.”
In order to lure the bats into their new homes a team of bat-dropping collectors has been established. The team places mounds of the droppings in a bag before scattering them in the new homes. It is hoped that the bats will smell their excrement and assume their kin are nearby and settle in.
Mr Anderson who has worked as a civil engineer for 6 years described the process of demolition as “slow and steady.”
Bats are a protected in the United Kingdom and both the RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and the Bat Conservation Trust provide rights for bats in this country. The Pipistrelle bats are one of the most numerous breeds in the country with over 300 found in the area.
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “We take ecology issues very seriously and the bat colony recorded at Richardson Road are of District importance. This is an extremely rare and important find for Newcastle, as we have never previously had any records of this number of bats anywhere within the city centre. From the City’s perspective, the Richardson Road student campus is an extremely important ecological feature, hence the assessment of District value.”
Paul Bandeen, Head of Residences at Newcastle University said: “Bats are crucial to the wellbeing of our ecological system and I’m delighted that the new accommodation at Park View Student Village will greatly contribute to this.”
He added: “Bat species tend to be faithful to the same maternity roosts and return to them each year. They often roost in occupied buildings due to the increased temperature needed for rearing pups.”
The bats are expected to move into their new homes in late October and early November. The bat enclosures are to be heated with electricity and kept damp with rainwater.