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Expert Comment: Bats at the Anfield stadium

0202 Mr Paul Rooney Monday 14 October 2013

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management Paul Rooney looks at the possibility of bats creating problems for the redevelopment of the Liverpool FC stadium at Anfield.

Recent news raises the possibility of Bats creating problems for the redevelopment of the Liverpool FC stadium at Anfield. Bats are the most protected species of animal in the UK, with both the animal and their place of rest fully protected under the law.

As a long standing the holder of a bat licence issued by the government agency Natural England, and a life-long Liverpool FC supporter attending all the home matches, I have a keen interest in this matter.

There is no doubt that Bats are present at Anfield. I have seen them flying around at the match on many occasions over the years. The adjacent habitats of Stanley Park and Anfield Cemetery provide a swathe of suitable feeding habitats with a large water body and plenty of grassland and trees. Bats use these places to seek out their invertebrate food items. The question is, where do they roost?

Most recently I saw a Bat at the Liverpool versus Southampton match soon after the 4pm kick off on Saturday 21st September 2013. Bats are nocturnal creatures, typically emerging around dusk, although day flying Bats, especially during the autumn and winter under certain conditions, are not unknown. From observations, I would guess that the Bat seen that day was a Pipistrelle , which although rare is one of our more frequently found species.

At the Southampton match I was in the Main Stand at Anfield. The Bat appeared from the Anfield Road end of the Main Stand and proceeded to flying over The Kop end, sweeping backwards and forwards across The Kop in a typical feeding pattern . It is not at all unusual to see Bats foraging around the ground during matches as the floodlights will attract their invertebrate prey. What is not certain is where, and if, Bats are roosting in the stadium.

The presence of a Bat roost is a crucial factor in any development plans, whether it be a football stadium, a farmyard barn or a terraced house. Bat roosts receive full and strict protection under the law. This does not, however, mean that development may not proceed. Expert ecological advice is required to modify development plans in such cases, and typically some kind of ecological gain or benefit for the protected species is sought. What is certain is that an ecological survey by recognised Bat experts will be required to assess the situation at Anfield, and these surveys should start as soon as possible.

Paul Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management and Geography at Liverpool Hope University. He is a licensed Bat Worker, and has held a government agency Bat Licence for almost 20 years. Paul leads postgraduate environmental courses in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Liverpool Hope University. These courses include the theory and practice of working with protected species, including Bats.

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