A bat so small it can fit into a matchbox has held up a £20 million St Andrews University project.
A single common pipistrelle, which stands at just four centimetres tall and weighs less than a pencil, was discovered roosting at a former paper mill in Guardbridge by contractors about to start work transforming the building into offices.
The development will eventually host 450 university staff, who were due to start moving in to the building this coming December.
The discovery of the pipistrelle – the UK’s smallest and most common bat – along with some other unforeseen issues with the building’s structure, means the project has been delayed by around eight weeks. The university said staff are now expected to move in to the Eden Campus in February.
In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are protected by law. Contractors discovered two potential bat roosts at the north end of the former paper mill buildings shortly after moving on to the site.
As it was the hibernation season, they had to come up with a plan to minimise disturbance.
This involved setting up exclusion zones around the roosts, which were inspected at the end of hibernation, confirmed as clear and sealed.
The university now plans to install eight bat boxes, four large roosting boxes and multi-seasonal boxes at its Eden Campus in case the bats decide to return this year.
The Eden Campus already includes an award-winning green energy centre which pumps hot water four miles to St Andrews to heat university buildings.
The current project will create office space, storage for library stock and a canteen.