Football club wins lights battle despite bat fears
Councillor calls extension ‘huge inconvenience’ for residents
A village football club’s 18-month fight to be able to use its floodlights for longer has been given the go-ahead – despite nearly being thwarted by a colony of bats.
Players at Bearsted FC would have been expected to be plunged into darkness after 9.30pm on weekdays – something that could pose a problem in the event of extra time in mid-week cup games.
The club applied to Maidstone Borough Council to have floodlighting extended for a further hour. But the area around the ground, in Honey Lane, is home to five breeds of bat, and there were concerns the move would affect their breeding habits.
Last Thursday, during a planning committee meeting, councillors heard the results of a Kent County Council survey that suggests there would be no negative impact on the animals.
Julian Scannell, trustee of Bearsted Football Club, said: “The current conditions of use of the floodlights prevent the club from complying with league requirements.
“We commissioned a batassessment report and the conclusions say the extension of use of floodlights won’t have a sig- nificant impact on breeding bats.
“We had one evening fixture on November 15, and there are no further midweek fixtures this season.”
Bearsted Football Club played its first FA Cup tie last year in a 2-1 loss to Eastbourne, but feared their time would run out had the match required a further 30 min- utes to be played.
An application was submitted in August 2016, and an amendment was made on Thursday to grant a time extension for just four cup games.
That has now been given the green light.
But Otham Councillor Kevin Hipkins felt the excess light spilling into neighbouring homes would be a huge inconvenience.
He said: “The parish council objects to this proposal because turning off the floodlights at 10.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays we consider to be too late.
“There will be light shining in local people’s homes with associated late-night spectator noise and traffic movement.”
Bearsted is not the first football club to have its plans thrown into doubt by wildlife.
In 2006, Maidstone United’s new ground at Whatman Way was delayed after crested newts were suspected to have made their homes there.
It turned out to be slow worms that delayed works.
Chairman Duncan Andrews will be pleased about the decision to allow his club’s floodlights to be used for longer and later in spite of concerns for local bats
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