Bat Ruling allows winter evening events to restart

Jan 29, 2016

We are delighted that we have been granted permission to recommence evening activities following a decision by Natural England, the government’s advisors for environmental issues. As you may remember, our evenings were suspended from April 2015 after doubts were raised regarding the impact of our evenings on our local colony of Greater Horseshoe Bats (which breed and live year-round in cliffs at the Berry Head nature reserve). Since then we have been working with our landlords the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, which manages the headland, and ecology firm Corylus Ecology, to evaluate the risks of evening activities. An independent report submitted by Corylus in December 2015 has enabled Natural England to allow events to restart, initially just during the winter months.

This is great news for us and we will be holding the first events over Valentine’s Weekend – more to follow.

Whilst the ruling to stop the evenings was difficult for our business, we have always fully supported the Trust and Natural England who are doing their job to protect one of the headland’s most precious inhabitants. The two bodies have been supportive and helpful in the last 10 months, as we have gone through the correct process to investigate any risks which may be caused by our evenings. We are delighted that Natural England now feel the risks are low enough for winter evenings to restart.

The Berry Head Greater Horseshoe Bat colony is one of a number of important maternity and hibernating sites in South Devon. The species (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) is threatened internationally and this region is one of the last strongholds in Western Europe, which brings it the highest level of environmental protection. The Berry Head colony is particularly stressed due to local developments and relatively low temperatures in their cave roosts. The bats, the largest species in the UK, are particularly susceptible to disturbance from lights and noises and any developments near to their roosts or ‘flyways’ must prove they will not cause damage.

In March 2015 it was ruled that the noise and light spilling out from the café, and the presence of people walking into the Berry Head north fort (which intersects one of the two main flyways out of the bats’ caves), could potentially cause damage and must be investigated before after-dark events could be allowed. Corylus Ecology have investigated these factors and their report allowed Natural England to decide that the risks are negligible in the winter months, as long as some precautions are taken such as avoiding outdoor lighting or entertainment. Further research including bat surveys will be required by Corylus in order for Natural England to make a decision about evening opening during the rest of the year.