Workers repairing historic South Shields chapel warned to look out for bats

Workers at Harton Chapel have been ordered to be on the look out for bats
Workers at Harton Chapel have been ordered to be on the look out for bats

Bats may hold up builders carrying out urgent repairs in a South Tyneside cemetery.

They are being warned to immediately lay down tools if they spot the protected creatures resting or roosting in the Grade II listed Harton Chapel, at Harton Cemetery, South Shields.

If they fail to heed the warning, they risk committing a criminal offence and being prosecuted under UK and EU legislation.

To keep them on the right side of the law, they are being given instruction in how to spot the creatures – and a torch to see them.

These are among a raft of measures being set down ahead of improvements being made to the towering Victorian structure.

Its store room especially needs attention after years of pounding by the elements.

An initial assessment by South Tyneside Council found the risk of bats being present in the store building was small but a review by its countryside officer confirmed rainwater pipes have left gaps which could be used by roosting bats.

They have now warned that the discovery of any bat should lead to a suspension of work, protecting repair teams from UK and EU legislation.

In their report, they say: “Given the low risk of bats being present and affected, an informative has been recommended referencing the protection afforded to British bats by both UK and European legislation.

“Should a bat or signs of bats be discovered at any stage during the works, works must stop immediately, and advice sought from Natural England and the project ecologist.

“Failure to do this may result in an offence being committed, regardless of planning consent, and could lead to prosecution.”

The repair plans, approved by South Tyneside Counil, show the store room’s roof will be replaced with like-for-like materials.

Any timbers that cannot be salvaged will be replaced by new ones and fitted to existing installations.

The adaptation will not be visible from outside and the pitch and volume of the roof will stay the same.

A survey showed the chapel’s main roof to be in good overall condition.