Peer blasts £500,000 bat bridges proposal

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A £500,000 bill for bat ‘bridges’ to be built over the A11 has been called a ‘waste of money’ by a Conservative peer.

Six wire and mesh bat bridges have been incorporated into designs for the A11 upgrade between Barton Mills and Thetford to be carried out next year.

After finding out that a decision to build the bridges had already been made in March, Baron Marlesford criticised the move, saying that ‘common sense’ was required at a time when Government resources were limited.

“In the context of costs, you need to say you will help bats, but there’s a limit.

“It’s a judgment which has been made at a time when some cancer patients, for example, are being told they can’t have the right drugs.

“I understand approval for the bridge at Thetford was given by the secretary of state, but I’m told they don’t know the cost and I find it astonishing they could approve it without knowing that.

“If they say it’s part of the cost of the road, I would say they’re wasting taxpayers’ money,” he said.

A request by Baron Marlesford on October 4 to uncover the cost of previous bat bridges built in the UK revealed that two built on the A38 Dobwalls Bypass in Cornwall had cost taxpayers £300,000.

The Highways Agency insists it has a legal obligation to protect endangered species and that bat bridges were the most cost effective way of fulfilling that obligation.

A spokeswoman said designs for the bat bridges were still ongoing, with exact locations yet to be decided. Further details are expected in January next year.

She said: “We are legally bound to protect endangered species such as bats, and introducing bat ‘bridges’ is one way of reducing disruption to their environment and flight paths when a road improvement is carried out.”

The bridges will feature two telegraph poles on either side of the road, with wire and mesh slung between.

Preliminary work on the A11 project began this week.