PLANS to refurbish a Highland primary school have been badly delayed – by a colony of bats.
Around 160 bats were found in the roof of Aldourie Primary, near Inverness, when contractors moved in to start building work worth more than £700,000.
Because it was the breeding season for the creatures, workers were required by law to wait until nature had taken its course.
Only then were they allowed to move the colony to specially-constructed bat boxes in nearby trees.
And when the refurbishment of the 130-year-old school is complete, the bats will be allowed to move back in to the roof space.
Highland Council was not able to say how much extra cost the presence of the bat colony had added to the £722,000 budget.
But the 37 pupils of Aldourie Primary will have to wait until June next year before they can return, three months later than planned.
Three protected species of bat – common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and brown long-eared – were found in the school by construction firm Morgan Sindall.
Highland Council said they were following guidelines set out by Scottish Natural Heritage for the protection of the animals.
A spokeswoman said: “We are following guidelines set by Scottish Natural Heritage, as they are a protected species. We are satisfied that it is safe.”
Teacher Louise Robertson said they had been aware of bats at the school for as long as anyone could remember.
Parent Fiona King said the children didn’t mind having bats inside the school, and if the council were to remove them they would find ways back in.
Mrs King, who has two children, aged 10 and seven, said: “Quite a few buildings around here have bats in them. Our house has bats and a few of our friends houses do too.
“If it’s in your home they can make some noise at night, but in a school you wouldn’t notice as much.”