A bat so small it can fly into a matchbox has held up a major £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 it into offices.
The state-of-the-art development will eventually host 450 key university staff, who were due to start moving into the building this coming December.
The discovery of the pipistrelle – the UK’s smallest and most common bat – along with some other unforseen 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 next year.
In Britain, all bat species and their roosts are protected under national and international legislation.
Contractors discovered two potential bat roosts at the north end of the former paper mill buildings shortly after moving onto 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 bat decides to return this year.
North East Fife SNP MP Stephen Gethins described bats as “tiny caped crusaders” and said he was pleased the one at Eden Campus had been protected.
“The Eden Campus project is very important to the university, Guardbridge and the surrounding area, and while delays may mean contractors are hanging around for a bit longer, I am sure everyone will be grateful the university is treating these tiny caped crusaders and their roosts with the respect and protection they deserve,” he said.
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.