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Football club's night matches dictated by bat population

Wednesday 14th February 2018



THE plight of moth-eating bats living in woodland near the A274 became the focus of an impassioned planning debate recently.
Bearsted Football Club was looking to increase the hours floodlights can be used at its ground near Otham, but it was not sport that shaped the outcome but wildlife.
The club, which is now playing in the Southern Counties East Football League, needs to increase its light capacity to enable it to compete in cup competitions that might go to extra time.
The club, in Honey Lane, Otham, wanted to be allowed to extend its floodlight time by an hour to 10.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the season.
A previous hearing was deferred so that an ecological survey could be completed into the state of the bat population and whether it might be affected by an increase in floodlighting at the site.
The study found there would be no discernible impact on the local bats.
The Liberal Democrat’s Cllr Tony Harwood said the area around the A274 Sutton Road and Otham was undergoing “urban sprawl” with house-building. He told fellow members of Maidstone Borough Council’s planning committee: “Lighting has an absolutely disastrous impact on the moths which are the prey species of the bats.”
Ukip’s Cllr Gordon Newton, unhappy at the possibility of residents being disturbed by extra lighting time, said that of the nine species of bat found in the UK five of them were present locally and dismissed the ecological study as “absolute nonsense”. He protested: “Bats will be affected by what is going on here.”
Fellow Ukip member Eddie Powell mentioned he had been the chairman of a club of a similar size to Bearsted FC. He said the chances of playing Manchester United on a Tuesday night in an FA cup replay were “extremely unlikely” so the reaction to the application was “going over the top”. However, he bowed to Cllr Harwood’s “superior knowledge” of British bats.
The committee resolved to limit the number of 10.30pm extensions to four per season and only in official FA trophy competitions.