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Bearsted FC given floodlight go-ahead for evening cup games

A village football club’s 18-month fight to be able to use its floodlights for longer has been given the go-ahead – despite nearly being thwarted by a colony of bats.

Players at Bearsted FC would have been expected to be plunged into darkness after 9.30pm on weekdays – something that could pose a problem in the event of extra time in mid-week cup games.

The club applied to Maidstone Borough Council to have floodlighting extended for a further hour. But the area around the ground, in Honey Lane, is home to five breeds of bat, and there were concerns the move would affect their breeding habits.

A pipistrelle bat

A pipistrelle bat

Last Thursday, during a planning committee meeting, councillors heard the results of a Kent County Council survey that suggests there would be no negative impact on the animals.

Julian Scannell, trustee of Bearsted Football Club, said: “The current conditions of use of the floodlights prevent the club from complying with league requirements.

“We commissioned a bat-assessment report and the conclusions say the extension of use of floodlights won’t have a significant impact on breeding bats.

“We had one evening fixture on November 15, and there are no further midweek fixtures this season.”

Councillors agreed to make a condition amendment to allow the prolonged use of the floodlights for a maximum four games per season should Bearsted FC require light for extra time.

Bearsted Football Club played its first FA Cup tie last year in a 2-1 loss to Eastbourne, but feared their time would run out had the match required a further 30 minutes to be played.

An application was submitted in August 2016, and the condition was made to grant a time extension. That has now been given the green light.

Bearsted is not the first football club to have its plans thrown into doubt by wildlife.

In 2006, Maidstone United’s new ground at Whatman Way was delayed after crested newts were suspected to have made their homes there.

It turned out to be slow worms that delayed works.

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