In defence of bats
Sir: I am saddened by the ‘us versus them’ stance taken by Melissa Kite (‘Bats vs people’, 3 August) when referring to bats. I might be better known for wielding a different sort of bat, but I am a strong supporter of the winged variety. These amazing creatures have lived alongside people for centuries but bats are often misunderstood and even persecuted. So let’s set the record straight; bats are a natural British pesticide, eating midges and other pests. But the last century hasn’t been good for bats. We have carelessly destroyed much of their habitat and, although, as Ms Kite noted, they are protected by law, with the challenges bats face they need all the help they can get. In buildings where bats roost their presence often goes unnoticed as they usually roost in small numbers for short periods each year before moving on.
If for any reason the presence of bats is considered problematic, solutions that suit both bats and people can generally be found. Volunteer bat-workers and ecological consultants can all play a part in helping people and bats to live happily together and advice is available via the Natural England Helpline (0845 1300 228). If bats in a building are considered early on in any development, they needn’t become a problem. Those of us who bat for Britain and its diverse wildlife can and should make every effort to live with our bats.
Patron of the Bat Conservation Trust London SE11
But what about reptiles?
Sir: Melissa Kite omits to refer to a large chunk of this EU-derived law on wildlife protection. As an architect, I recently received a letter reminding me that the reptile season ends in September. They explain: ‘All of the UK’s native reptiles are protected by UK legislation. It is illegal to deliberately injure, capture, kill, keep, transport or sell a reptile. Reptile surveys are usually required as part of a planning application and can only be undertaken between March-September (weather dependent). As part of a reptile survey we will need to visit the site eight times, which will involve installing and checking artificial refugia. A reptile survey can take up to six weeks.’
When I mentioned this to the editorial director of a leading architectural magazine, he remarked, ‘It sounds completely crazy, so obviously true.’ What is not so crazy are the implications of this on future development. If this legislation were to be applied, this would impose an embargo on most planning applications outside the window of seven months, and result in considerable expense to any unfortunate applicant. On the other hand, Nick Boles and others in this government are claiming that we will have to build nearly 300,000 new homes per year until 2031. If the wildlife lobby continues to exercise this stranglehold, very few of these homes will be built.
Think of the grandchildren
Sir: I think Melanie Phillips should consult the aged (‘Who’s the burden?’, 27 July). Many of us completely agree with the young and the hard-pressed middle-aged. We had our tuition fees plus pleasant accommodation and three good meals a day. We were well looked after and there was nothing to pay.
Now our children are cruelly taxed and our grandchildren weighed down with debt to keep us in bus passes, television licences and winter fuel allowances while we give nothing.
Many of us would like the means to end our lives quickly and painlessly before the taxpayer has to fund us yet again. Vets do it all the time. Old age is beastly enough without the nightmare prospect of being herded into ‘homes’, having ‘carers’, or of occupying a precious hospital bed for months or years.
Most of us have been capable and independent. We should be allowed to decide when our lives have become pointless and are harming our loved ones and the country.
A run for our money
Sir: Carol Sarler (‘Must I sponsor your misery?’, 27 July) wonders why we should sponsor people to run marathons. She says: if you want to run, run; if you want money for a cause that matters to you…then please, just ask. But will people really give money to a friend, just for them to pass it on to their favourite charity? And will all those people really run marathons just for fun? I fear Sarler’s way would put an end to both the running and the donation. Sponsored runs make both runners and givers feel they are contributing, and the pain the participant experiences helps him or her sympathise with those they’ve set out to help. Plus, it encourages physical fitness, which can’t be a bad thing.
Horses for courses
Sir: The bad English translations of Italian dishes mentioned by Alexander Chancellor (3 August) brought back memories of the prestigious Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. The English section of the splendid menu invited one to start with delicious ‘horses douvres’.
Don’t feed the trolls
Sir: Hugo Rifkind (3 August) is absolutely right: as long as social networking exists, so will internet trolls. But the media giving them attention only fuels their temper tantrums and empty threats. As long as they cause no real-world harm, it’s best to leave them be.
Henry Burkinshaw and Seun Alabi