An owner of a house situated on the original film set of Emmerdale Farm plagued with bats will finally get his house back later this summer.
Jonathan Mortimer, a partner at Raworths Solicitors in Harrogate has experienced two months of disturbance caused by the roosting of hundreds of bats in his home which left most bedrooms of the house uninhabitable. He purchased the property just outside Leathley last September and had no reason to believe there had been any previous problem with bats. However, in April this year hundreds of bats returned to what is understood to be an established maternity roost to have young.
The living conditions became unacceptable: “The bats created a roost between the ceiling of the bedrooms and the slates. The disturbance at night has been considerable. It has proved impossible to sleep with hundreds of bats above our heads flapping, screeching and scrapping. The final straw was a bat landing on the duvet in the middle of the night. As a result, we have had to abandon two of the bedrooms and at one stage we were left having to sleep downstairs” says Jonathan Mortimer.
Since the bats arrival, he has been in a battle to rid the house of the bats with the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England on the basis that bats are a protected species. It is a criminal offence intentionally or recklessly to disturb a bat in its roost and fines of up to £5,000 per bat can be imposed. Jonathan Mortimer says: “At times, it seemed as if the bats had more rights to the property than I did and that I should simply hand the keys over to the bats. Further, that the draconian laws which protect the bats were such that an unnatural habitat for bats is given preference to my human habitat”.
After months of negotiation with the authorities, a licence to exclude the bats was finally granted by Natural England on 17th June 2011. This allows action to be taken to remove the roost from the property. However, Jonathan Mortimer has agreed with Natural England that no action will be taken to block up the access points in the roof until at least August when the bats are expected to migrate and leave the roost in order to ensure that no bats are destroyed in the process.
“I am pleased with the outcome as many people have a perception that it is impossible to remove bats legally. It has been a battle to get the matter resolved but we only have a few more weeks of disruption. However, I anticipate that there will be a climax to the noise and disruption as the numbers of bats are set to double to over 500 as the bats have young”.
Jonathan Mortimer is still calling for a relaxation in the law on the basis that he has received many messages from members of the public which indicate that bat numbers have increased enormously. He says: “I believe that the laws should be relaxed so that it is at least possible to get an immediate licence to exclude bats which are roosting in dwellings. Further, that we need to ensure that the laws are proportionate to the risk of survival which bats face. It is also crucial that we create more natural habitats for bats to live in rather than laws which allow them to live in our homes”.