The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is nocturnal and elusive mammal that forms part of the mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, stoats and otters. Like humans, they are omnivorous, with earth worms and berries forming a large part of a badger’s diet. Badgers are social creatures and live together in large underground setts, comprised of a series of interlocking tunnels with nest chambers, toilets and several entrances.
Did you know! Badgers inherit these setts from their parents, while always expanding and refining them. The resulting huge tunnel systems are, in some cases, centuries old.
The badger uses a variety of habitats; they are found in urban, suburban and rural areas and will use woodland, pasture, other farmland, parks and gardens for foraging and to excavate their setts. Conflict often occurs where development affects areas traditionally used by badgers. In recent years, the proposed and implemented controlled cull of badgers in the UK has brought the plight of the badger into public focus.
Did you know! The badger is the largest land carnivore left in the British Isles following the extinction of the bear and the wolf, at around 10 to 12 kilos in weight and measuring about a metre long from nose to tail. Amazing, considering that it occurs on such a crowded island.
Although widespread in England and Wales, badgers have been subject to a number of threats including habitat loss and deliberate persecution. This has led to specific legislation being drawn up in relation to badgers.
Badgers are specifically protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This Act makes it is a criminal offence to either:
Badgers are also listed in Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Section 11 of this Act prohibits the use of certain methods of taking or killing a wild animal, including illuminating devices and some snares.
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, a person convicted of an offence or offences under the terms of the Act is liable to a £5000 fine and/or six months imprisonment. Any equipment used to commit the offence may be forfeited. Any dog used to commit an offence maybe destroyed and the offender disqualified from custody of a dog. Where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that there is an offence, a constable may without warrant stop and search 99 any person or vehicle involved, and seize anything which may be evidence.
GUIDANCE NOTE 1:
It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that the proposed development will not have an adverse impact on badgers or their habitats. A licence is required for heavy machinery work within 30m, light machinery within 20m and hand digging within 10m of a badger sett.
A badger sett is defined as ‘any structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger’. An ecological survey will confirm whether or not a site contains or lies within the influence of a badger sett. The optimum timing for a badger survey is during spring or early autumn/winter when animals are active but new vegetation growth is less likely to obscure field signs.
The types of sett created and used by badgers can beseasonal in their use. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) considers all setts including seasonal ones to be in use unless evidence confirms a sett has not been occupied over a 12 month period. The damaging or closure of a sett without a licence will constitute a criminal offence unless it can be demonstrated that it has not been used over a 12 month period.
Further advice on undertaking a Badger survey can be found from Natural Englands Standing Advice Species Sheet: Eurasian Badger (Badger), and CCWs Badgers and Development
GUIDANCE NOTE 2:
Where surveys indicate that badgers will be affected by the development proposal. The applicant should consult with natural Resources wales to determine if the works require a licence. In addition the Council will require a Method Statement to be submitted with the planning application for the application to be registered. If it is considered that the proposed avoidance, mitigation, compensation measures are not satisfactory, the Local Planning Authority will refuse the planning application.
The data obtained from the badger survey must be formulated into a Method Statement which is submitted to the Council to inform their planning decision.
The Method Statement should detail the survey area, project proposals, survey methods and results.
The impact assessment should be presented in the Method Statement. Impacts should be classified as temporary, short term or long-term and the scale of each impact should be identified. The Method Statement should include practical avoidance measures and, where avoidance is not possible, provide a detailed mitigation strategy, including a timetable.
The Method Statement should also identify whether a licence from the NRW is required prior to commencing development activities.
Developers and landowners should note that the Council will not condition the production of the Method Statement. The information in the Method Statement is required to assist the Council to make their determination in regards to the 1992 The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the need for licence from NRW.
Applications in which an effect upon Badgers is anticipated as a result of the proposals, but which do not include an appropriate Method Statement will most likely not
be validated. If the application is validated, but the information relating to Badgers is subsequently found to be insufficient during the determination, this may affect the result of the planning decision.
Works on a site that contains an active badger sett may require a licencecxv from NRW. A licence can only be applied for once planning permission has been granted.
A licence cannot be applied for retrospectively i.e. after a sett has been damaged or disturbed. A licence will normally take around 6 weeks so make sure you plan ahead. For NRW to determine a licence application, the following must be confirmed or provided:
The law does not permit licences to capture badgers for development purposes. Relocating badgers by translocation is not an option.
For further up-to-date information regarding how to apply for Badger licences issued by NRW and the Welsh Government visit NRW website.
GUIDANCE NOTE 3:
Developers/ applicants must provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that avoidance is not possible before mitigation and compensation are considered as alternatives.
The simplest way to avoid disturbing badgers is not to develop where sett(s) are located. Ensuring that works do not take place after dark in the proximity of the sett(s) is also another possibility to avoid disturbance.
Badger setts are used by the same family of badgers over generations, as are their foraging routes. Barriers or fencing across a badger foraging route will likely be damaged by a badger as they will nearly always use the same pathways. By conducting observations over a period of time the movement patterns and habits of the badgers can be understood and unnecessary disturbance and costly repairs can be avoided.
Did you know! With Badger numbers declining in most of Europe, The UK is one of the species' strongholds. Badgers are "ancient Britons and have lived alongside us for a very long time. The earliest fossil remains date back 250,000 years. Some of their setts have been occupied by generations of badgers over a many years. One sett in Derbyshire is even recorded in the Domesday Book.
GUIDANCE NOTE 4:
Where harm is unavoidable it should be minimised by mitigation measures.
Where impact on a sett or on the badgers occupying the sett, is unavoidable, relocation, exclusion and provision of artificial badger setts are all methods that could be employed to mitigate the impact. However, the specific methods of mitigation should be decided in consultation with NRW and Bridgend County Borough Council and will be the subject of the licence.
An exclusion zone should be created around any badger setts on, or close to the site. Even if a sett is not within the development footprint, an exclusion zone will be required if a sett lies within 30m of a development site.
The exclusion zone must be made apparent to workers on site, as should the control on activities that can take place on site and within the exclusion zone. The exclusion zone should be fence of around 1m high. It is important to leave a gap underneath to allow the badgers passage (around 30cm/1 foot should be ample) or alternatively a badger gate could be used, similar to a cat-flap in concept.
A number of activities of different levels can be carried out close to a badger sett, the level of activity and distance from the sett will be dependent on whether a licence has been issued.
A licence is required for work;
Other more disruptive activities such as pile driving or the use of explosives, within 100m of a sett(s) will require a licence. These are not definitive distances and advice should be sought from NRW before commencement of such activities, preferably prior to applying for a licence. The 10m, 20m, and 30m distances might also need adjustment depending on circumstances.
Building sites are as dangerous for badgers as they are for people and measures must be taken to reduce the risk. Chemicals should be stored securely away from setts. Holes or trenches left open overnight should be provided with a means of escape for badgers that may fall in.
If and when a badger sett is to be lost, an experienced and suitably qualified ecologist should be on-site to provide guidance. It is usually a condition of the licence that work to close and destroy a badger sett are implemented or at least supervised by an ecologist.
GUIDANCE NOTE 5:
Compensation will only be considered where the developer/applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated that avoidance and mitigation are not possible and the compensatory measures result in no net loss of habitat.
Foraging habitats used by badgers that will be lost or damaged by development should be replaced by habitat suitable for foraging. A suitably qualified ecologist will be able to provide advice in this respect. It is important to not simply rely on the provision of private gardens as foraging areas. This is because badgers can be destructive and dig up gardens, better to provide alternative feeding areas not associated with gardens.
Should a badger sett be unavoidably destroyed it will most likely need to be replaced. This is achieved through the provision of an artificial sett. It should be noted that this is really only an option if all other avenues to avoid destruction have been explored. Should this be the only suitable course of action the new artificial sett should be created before development commences.
A suitably qualified ecologist and the local badger group will be able to provide guidance and suggestions for locations for new artificial setts. It is important to note that it is not possible to capture and translocate badgers, to a new sett and any mitigation land must be made accessible in the immediate surroundings.
The avoidance, mitigation or compensation provided by developments for Badgers should not be considered in isolation but included into the design stages early in the development including opportunities for badger foraging areas.
Well designed green infrastructure with the provision of open spaces can allow wildlife to flourish, as well as providing other benefits to the development. Green infrastructure should be designed with input from an ecologist. This will allow factors to be taken into account such as how to incorporate wildlife features such as artificial badger setts into developments whilst also taking into account subsequent uses of the site and designing to avoid disturbance to wildlife features such as badger setts and foraging areas.
It is important that developments do not isolate a badger territory by surrounding it with roads or housing which could result in problems such as increased road traffic collisions, and badger damage to gardens and houses.