A South Tyneside cemetery lodge, partly bombed in the Second World War, is to have a new storey added – if bats are not disturbed.
Planning bosses have given the go-ahead for the project at the now privately-owned detached property in Harton Cemetery, South Shields.
Although a study by an ecologist suggested just two bats were present, council bosses say measures must be taken to ensure any risk to them is minimised.
No building work will start until developers have stated in writing how they plan to so.
The decision came after the owners submitted two in-depth bat studies, done in May and June.
They have still advised that builders study the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act to ensure they do not break the law.
Under the act, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat while it is occupying a place of shelter or protection.
In its report, the council’s countryside officer states the risks to bats is limited to the construction phase where they could be obstructed from accessing the roost site.
This could be done due to inappropriately placed scaffolding, or by construction activity, noise and vibration.
The report adds: “I would advise that further consideration of the law is required to inform a decision as to whether any offences are likely, that cannot be avoided or mitigated.”
The owners of the Grade II-listed house, at the cemetery’s St George’s Avenue entrance, want to construct a new two-storey south wing.
The original wing, part of a building designed by architect Henry Grieves and constructed between 1888 and 1891, was obliterated during a German bombing raid in 1944.
In the years afterwards, South Tyneside’s council took ownership and used the building for housing.
Several alterations were made to brickwork, windows and doors which another recent report found were not in keeping with its original character.
The lodge was granted listed status in February 1983, and about four years ago was sold into private hands by the council.
In granting planning permission, the council said no development must take place until a method statement for avoiding or mitigating all potential impacts on bats has been submitted.
It must include the timing of any works which may cause disturbance, and oversight of the appropriate placement of scaffolding to avoid obstruction of roosting areas.