Petition launched after council says hedgehog holes are 'over burdening'
Hedgehogs are in a David and Goliath battle with West Berkshire Council.
Wildlife and environmental campaigners have now launched a petition in their defence and are planning a social media campaign to get enough signatures to make a hedgehog super highway happen.
Newbury Town Council has had its attempts to get holes put in fences in new developments to help save the creatures thwarted by West Berkshire Council, which is the planning authority.
It has said no, citing the National Planning Policy Framework as a reason, claiming planning conditions forcing developers to put holes in fences would be ‘over burdening’.
But the excuse has been given short shrift.
“The onus should be on developers,” said Jill Hoblin, who also chairs the Binfield Badger Group.
"This is such an easy thing. You can even get pre-cut fence panels with hedgehog holes in them these days."
But West Berkshire Council claims to advocate the adoption of Neighbourhood Development Plans to establish hedgehog highways in communities where the animal’s future is a cause of worry.
It said: “A blanket policy for hedgehog highways would not meet the requirements of national planning legislation because there is no specific evidence of a fall in the district’s hedgehog population, making it difficult for council to introduce such a policy.
“But the council does encourage officers to add informative to planning applications, when appropriate. There are many sites where hedgehog highways, and even underpasses have been conditioned.”
The council says it will continue to ensure that planning proposals do not have a negative impact on the district’s wildlife, but that isn't good enough for the campaigners.
“Far from being an over-burdening condition, as claimed by West Berkshire Council, it is a common sense measure that would protect this endangered species,” said Ms Hoblin.
"According to the State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report, numbers are down in rural areas by between 30 per cent and 75 per cent since 2000.
“The Government’s Natural Environment guidance recommends planning conditions that benefit wildlife, including hedgehog highways, bat boxes and swift bricks.
“Hedgehog highways would also help WBC meet obligations to achieve biodiversity net gain on developments and contribute to the creation of Nature Recovery Networks.”