Clearly bats have gone up the candle in their churchmanshipRt Revd Graham James Bats are ruining churches because of barn conversions, the Bishop of Norwich has said. Speaking in the house of Lords, the Rt Revd Graham James said that bats had moved into churches in his diocese because old barns were being made into homes. “All over Norfolk there are barns once used by bats which have been turned into beautiful homes for human beings. And their new owners do not want to share their property with them. And so the bats have moved to medieval churches,” he said. Speaking in support of a bat conservation bill sponsored by Conservative peer Lord Cormack, he said that worshippers in some areas had “come to the end of their tether” because their “glorious building” had become “increasingly unusable for worship or any other community purpose”. “I think we tolerate this because we think houses of God are not inhabited. But they are, and not only by God – they are inhabited by people,” he said. Bat droppings can cause damage to church fittings such as fonts and pews, and require intensive cleaning by volunteers if the church is to be used for services. Around 60 per cent of pre-16th century churches are estimated to contain bat roosts. The bishop also joked that a longstanding deterrence method, the use of incense, was becoming less effective. “I used to recommend the regular use of incense, partly because I’m very High Church, and love incense, and bats appear very Protestant, since they normally departed where incense was used.”But even that is not now guaranteed to do the trick – clearly bats have gone up the candle in their churchmanship,” he said. The bill would remove bat protection laws in churches unless there was no “significant adverse impact” and prevent new building without a local bat survey.It has been opposed by the Bat Conservation Trust, which warned it would be “disastrous for those bat species that rely on churches”. Lord Cormack denied the bill was “anti-bats” and said something had to be done to protect churches and tackle the hygiene risk.The move was opposed by both the Government and the Opposition in the Lords, with Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble saying the Government could not support the bill as churches played a vital part in the survival of bats. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.