A £500,000 development has got the go-ahead after police stepped in over concerns about “non-existent bats”.

Work to demolish the Cross Guns in Bolton Road, Westhoughton, was halted because of small holes in the roof — even though there was no evidence of bats being present.

Chris Houghton, managing director of technology provider Eventura, had brought in Chester-based ecological consultants Arbtech which conducted a survey of the old pub before his plans to relocate the firm’s base from St George’s Square in Bolton town centre went into full swing.

Mr Houghton said: “They came back and said there was no evidence of bats being present — no droppings or anything.

“But they said there were small gaps in the roof where certain species of bat could possibly reside. There was potential for them being there, even though there were no actual bats.

“They said the only way to check would be for two to three people from their company to monitor the building over two nights, but that could not happen until May.

“We offered to put specialist bat boxes in, just in case, but this was not enough to satisfy them.

“We were stuck between a rock and hard place. We were due to start demolishing the pub in December ready for building work to start in March.”

But now, after consulting wildlife officers at Great Manchester Police, Mr Houghton has been assured demolition work can start — provided care is taken to look out for bats.

Work is likely to get under way in about two weeks.

Mr Houghton said: “The police have taken a really sensible view, and I am glad I contacted them.

“At the end of the day, there are 40 jobs at stake and a £500,000 investment.”

A spokesman for Bolton Council, which granted planning permission for the Eventura project, said: “Whenever a company applies to knock down a building we remind them that under the Wildlife Act they should make sure there are no protected animals in the building.

“They have gone ahead and had a survey done, but it’s not really our role to get involved at this stage.

“If they knock down the building and bats are there, they could face prosecution.”

Bolton-born Mr Houghton has been running Eventura almost 11 years, and has a varied portfolio with a client list ranging from Umbro, BP, Ping, Ashworth, United Utilities, Shell, Baxi, Callaway Golf and Pringle of Scotland to shoe guru Jimmy Choo. Arbtech refused to comment.