BATS are ruling the roost at a Bognor Regis hotel.
The presence of the common pipistrelles has delayed extension works at the town’s Premier Inn.
The protected mammals mean the scheme to add a further 22 bedrooms to the site at the Robin Hood pub on Shripney Road has been put back at least four months.
Operations manager Louisa Colquhoun said: “At the moment, we are expecting to open at the beginning of June. But that depends upon the behaviour of the bats.”
The hotel’s operator, Whitbread, received planning permission from Arun District Council last July to extend the hotel.
The company had funded an ecological survey of the premises as part of its planning application for the work. This had pointed out potential roosting sites in the original building.
One of the 15 conditions which governed the approval stated it was a legal offence to destroy or damage a bat roost or disturb a bat.
Ms Colquhoun said all the preparations for the work had gone well and the tight deadline to open by the end of next month was set to be met.
But at least one pipistrelle was seen as the builders were working early last September.
This meant little to the hotel’s staff but it brought the long-awaited development to an immediate halt.
“Much of the initial works had to re-planned and several additional experts consulted,” said Ms Colquhoun.
“Various notices were set up advising crew and guests and team members of possible roosting sites and these were cordoned off to ensure minimal disturbance.”
Natural England was brought in to oversee the connection of the extension’s roof with the existing hotel.
The contractors have also limited the noise and the disturbance around the building. A tree in the hotel’s grounds has been fenced off as well because of its role as a bats’ pitstop.
But the initial frustration at the bats soon gave way to curiosity as the some 15 hotel employees, 15 at the pub and the 15 contractors began to learn more about the nocturnal creatures.
The number of bats is unknown because of the need to keep away from their roost.
Stacey Turner, a fellow operations manager, said: “The bats have become a real talking point among the team managers and with our guests, who want to know more when they have seen the signs.
“We currently have many returning guests inquiring about the progress of the bats as we move into 2015. Far from the initial irritation, we have grown to appreciate the journey of discovery – not only as individuals but also as a team – and enjoy sharing it with those who visit.”