Lights, camera and a colony of bats

May 26, 2006

Most universities are familiar with the nightmare of planning negotiations.

But few have attempted to turn an ancient castle, complete with bat colony, into a cutting-edge laboratory.

Against all the odds Bath Spa University, which sits on protected land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, has transformed a 14th-century castle gatehouse into a specialist broadcast laboratory, with the latest equipment for producing film, radio and television.

The gatehouse, the oldest building on the university's Newton Park site, is listed as an ancient monument, and its renovation had to be carried out in association with English Heritage.

But the problems did not stop with planning approval. Air conditioning had to be installed when the architects realised that the computer equipment would quickly heat the lead roof.

And building work was delayed when a horseshoe bat cave was discovered.

Tim Middleton, head of the School of English and Creative Studies, said: "A top-floor room has been kept for the bats, who roost here in the summer.

Only the official batkeeper has a key."

The lab was funded with some of Bath's £5 million Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning grant. It features a high-end script-to-screen broadcast suite.

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