WW2 bunker by A417 in Gloucestershire converted to support rare bat species

200923 Bats A417
The converted WWII bunker will soon be covered with greenery. Credit: National Highways

A Second World War bunker has been converted to support a rare species of bat that has made its home in Gloucestershire.

National Highways has converted the structure, which runs alongside the A417.

It will be home to the rare Lesser Horseshoe and Barbastelle, as well as other species of bats.

These species of bats are currently protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

They are listed as near-threatened on the global International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

A discrete bat box has been fitted. Credit: National Highways

National Highways is also installing discrete bat boxes and three other types of bat structures.

This will provide vital homes for the bats, along with the planting of trees, hedges, woodland and grasslands to improve sustainability.

Celine Acard, senior project manager for the A417, said: “We know how much people love the wildlife that makes its home alongside routes like the A417.

“When situated alongside linear infrastructure such as A-roads, habitats can create crucial corridors for pollinating insects, birds and small mammals, enabling wildlife to permeate the wider landscape.

“It’s also fascinating to see the wide variety of bats in this region, something we are determined to support as we move forward.”

The lesser horseshoe bat (left) and greater horseshoe bat (right) Credit: National Highways

There are 18 known species of bat in the UK. Bats are the only true flying mammals, and typically weigh around 2lb.

To ensure the bat populations in the area are properly supported National Highways sought the services of chartered ecologists.

Natasha James, ecological clerk of works, said: “Bats will feed within the area around their roosts, which can be up to 10km or more depending on the species.

"It is therefore important that we provide habitat protection throughout our site as the bats fly between their roosts and feeding grounds."

The proposed A417 Gloucester Way Green Bridge Credit: National Highways

 “It is also essential to ensure that these habitats are protected for bats and enhance opportunities for bats where we can," Ms James added.

As construction of the A417 progresses, green bridges will be lifted into place to ensure animals can cross the new road safely.

National Highways’s plans also include creating new habitats and habitat connections for native wildlife species, such as birds, bats, bees, and badgers.