Sleeping bats delay Midhurst housing development

Plans for housing on the former St Margaret’s Convent site has been approved, but building will have to wait until April because of a colony of bats.

The application for 86 new dwellings on the Midhurst site was submitted last August but the proposals were only approved on Tuesday September 18.

The developers, Affinity Sutton, plan to start work on the site from April and are unable to start sooner partly because of bats nesting in the old building.

Senior land manager for Affinity Sutton, Julian Wilkinson said: “As the buildings were old we were not surprised to find 
bats there.

“We had to have ecologists camp out at the site at 
various times, in various conditions so that they could survey if there were any bats on the site.

“There was a small group of bats, and it’s hard to tell exactly how many, but I shouldn’t think there are more than five living there.”

If a group of bats live on a site, a developer must wait 
to between April and September to start building works so they do not disturb hibernating bats.

They have also made an agreement to build bat bricks into some of the buildings, with the ecologist guidance, so that the bats can continue living in the area.

The bricks are built in to the outer lining of the brick work and allow the bats to nest in a small area of the outer brickwork. This means the bats can carry on as they were before without disturbing the owners of the homes.

When work begins in April, Mr Wilkinson said they hope to finish the development within 20 months.

The plans include 24 private homes, 25 affordable homes, 37 sheltered apartments, and two homes for the eight nuns who still live on the site.

Car parking, open space and landscaping are also included in the development.

Mr Wilkinson said: “We are a housing association but we have worked in Chichester and the South Down area for years and we are determined to add to the historic nature of this market town.”