Hedgehog super highways plan rejected by council over planning ‘burden’

·2-min read
Residential areas are a key refuge for hedgehogs which have seen catastrophic declines in recent years, especially in rural areas (Getty)
Residential areas are a key refuge for hedgehogs which have seen catastrophic declines in recent years, especially in rural areas (Getty)

A plan to help halt declining numbers of hedgehogs in Britain has been rejected due to concerns it would be too difficult for developers to accommodate.

Newbury Council’s proposal involves using hedgehog-friendly fencing with holes that allowed the creatures to move more easily between gardens in residential areas.

In just the past two decades, hedgehog numbers have plummeted across Britain, with up to 75 per cent of the animals wiped out from some rural areas.

However, residential gardens are vital to boosting their numbers with signs that populations of hedgehogs in towns and cities could be beginning to rise.

In July, Newbury town council voted unanimously to support rules stipulating that new-build houses must have fences with a 13cm hole cut into the bottom to allow hedgehogs to pass.

The town council also encouraged people to cut hedgehog holes into existing fences.

The support came after a petition for hedgehog highways to be part of planning rules hit more than 1 million signatures in recent weeks.

But according to the BBC, West Berkshire Council – which is the planning authority – refused Newbury Council’s request to include hedgehog holes as a prerequisite to planning permission, saying it was “an over-burdening condition”.

Hugh Warwick who started the petition said: “We can’t sit back and let hedgehog numbers keep plummeting. It’s estimated that numbers are already down 95 per cent since the 1950s. We have to act now.”

The holes need to be just 13cm high to allow hedgehogs free movement between gardens (Getty)
The holes need to be just 13cm high to allow hedgehogs free movement between gardens (Getty)

James Byrne, landscape recovery manager for The Wildlife Trust, told The Independent planning authorities must work with nature to prevent the further loss of hedgehogs.

He said: “Hedgehogs are one of our most loved animals, but the lack of habitat, impacts of new development and roads, and the intensification of farming means they are at risk of becoming extinct. Research shows how hedgehog numbers have consistently declined by over eight per cent every year for the past two decades.

“To help hedgehogs and other wildlife recover, which is crucial for our own health and wellbeing, developers and planning authorities must work with nature, especially when considering new developments. Hedgehog highways – putting holes in garden fences so that hedgehogs can move around – are a brilliant way of enabling them to feed across a wider area.”

The Independent has contacted West Berkshire Council for comment.

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