CONCERNS about bats have halted an Otley school’s plans to create an all-weather sports pitch.

Prince Henry’s Grammar School was proposing to build the facility on the field in front of its main building. A planning application for the scheme had been lodged with Leeds City Council and attracted hundreds of comments.

But that has now been withdrawn after the council’s Nature Team flagged up concerns about the impact of the pitch’s floodlights on nearby bats.

Their report concludes that: “There is currently insufficient information to confidently conclude whether the corridor along the western side of the sports pitch will be dark enough and wide enough to continue providing an important commuting/foraging resource to Common and Soprano Pipistrelle Bats, which use the boiler room as a maternity roost.

“There should be a full survey season of commuting/foraging surveys carried out in full conformity with the Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines.

“It would seem sensible to withdraw this application until the full suite of surveys and analysis of potential impacts from lighting can be better understood.”

The school has followed that advice but Headteacher Janet Sheriff is hopeful the application could be re-submitted. She said: “Prince Henry’s shares the disappointment of many members of the community that this project will have to be postponed at this time. We absolutely appreciate that it is important to fully consider the impact on wildlife and the environment.

“Although the application has been withdrawn we are hopeful it will still be possible to take the project forward. We are now exploring options with the Football Foundation, Sport Chevin and local partner clubs involved in the project.”

The pitch would have been available to the wider community and was being supported by local clubs. Residents, however, claimed it would be too near their homes and also raised concerns about the impact on wildlife, and bats, at a recent Otley Town Council meeting.

Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “It appears this is a victory for those who don’t want to see a 3G pitch on this site. Whilst there have been a number of concerns raised, at this time it is the bats that have ‘done for them’ .

“If the school can undertake a study of the roost over the next bat season and show how they can ameliorate the lighting effect on the bats then they can always bring the application forward again.”

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: "I can appreciate that the school will be disappointed as they have put in a lot of work to bring this proposal forward.

"Residents may also still have some concerns that the plan may come back in the future.

"However, given the regional significance of the bat roost at the school along with other wildlife issues in the area I think it is best that a full survey of the bat population is carried out to ensure that these protected species would not be detrimentally affected by any proposal."

Town Council Chair Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) added: “I am pleased Prince Henry’s has withdrawn the application. I remain a supporter of the proposal but we will now await the assessment of the bat population and see if a lighting and timing regime can be designed that is compatible with their protection.”