Bury St Edmunds: Protected species of bat is discovered as works at Abbey Gardens are under way

Workers at the water garden at Bury St Edmunds' Abbey Gardens will now have to complete work around the bat. Workers at the water garden at Bury St Edmunds' Abbey Gardens will now have to complete work around the bat.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
1:00 PM

A single bat has meant some work to revamp part of a popular tourist attraction in Bury St Edmunds is on hold until the spring.

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Work has begun in the last two weeks on improving the water garden at the Abbey Gardens including remodelling the shelters to provide a walk-through from the garden to the bowling green area.

But one pipistrelle bat, which was found roosting in one of the shelters, means work at this spot to do with the glass windows is on hold.

Pipistrelles are the smallest and commonest bat in the UK, but they are a protected species.

John Smithson, parks manager for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “We have stopped working where we know the bat is so we don’t disturb it any more and all other landscaping work is carrying on.

“We are waiting for a report from an ecologist who will tell us what we need to consider because it is a protected species, and we will abide by any recommendations they make.

“In the spring pipistrelles will start hunting again and will have a summer roost which is a different roost to a winter roost.

“If we do need to do work that would potentially disturb it we will leave it until the spring.”

Mr Smithson said the work was due to be finished in the spring anyway because there was a lot of planting to do.

Referring to the bat, he said: “It’s not a deal-breaker as they say.”

Plans to improve the water garden have been in the pipeline for some time, but two bids for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Parks for People programme for the Abbey Gardens were unsuccessful.

Mr Smithson said the cash - about £30,000 - for the water garden works had been donated by a benefactor who wanted to make a difference to the gardens, which are visited by thousands of people every year.

He said the revamp would make the water garden more accessible, adding: “It’s always been a bit of a hidden jewel really.”

He also mentioned a child drowned there many years ago, and the garden also suffered from some antisocial behaviour, which were other reasons for opening it up.

“There will be a new fence line and planting. The water feature itself is staying pretty much the same as it is,” he added.

The water garden is closed to the public while works are going on there.

Also being discussed are plans to create a route from the refectory at St Edmundsbury Cathedral through to the gardens, coming out by the bowls kiosk.

“It’s about trying to improve the connectivity between the other establishments in what we call the abbey precinct,” Mr Smithson said.

He said the benefactor had also donated £10,000 to revamp the sensory garden.