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Badgers and planning – a practical guide

badgers planning system uk

In this article, Angela Williams (Director and Trustee, Badger Trust) provides a practical guide in relation to badgers and planning …

Legislative framework
Badgers are fully protected in the UK by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and by Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended). This makes it an offence to:

  • Wilfully kill, injure, take, possess or cruelly treat a badger.
  • Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to a badger sett.
  • Disturb a badger while it is occupying a sett. Disturbance could include digging or scrub clearance within 30m of the sett.

Planning process
Para 175 of the National Planning Policy Framework (July 2018) states that when determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principle:

“…if significant harm to biodiversity resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site…), mitigated or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused…”

When seeking planning permission, survey reports and mitigation plans are required if:

  • There are signs of setts or badgers on the development site or nearby.
  • Historical or distribution records show that badgers are active in the area or there is suitable habitat for sett building.

Badger surveys
The best time to survey is in early spring or late autumn when badgers are active but there is less vegetation to hide the signs (although surveys can be undertaken at any time of year).

If evidence of a sett is found, the developer must determine whether it is currently in use (although the sett is still protected if there are signs of badgers, even if there is no occupation at that time).

If there is a sett, a bait marking survey should be undertaken to establish:

  • The territorial boundaries if there are alternative setts which badgers could move to if a sett is destroyed.
  • The best site for a replacement artificial sett if required.

Monitor sett entrances for up to 4 weeks to establish if they are active. Extra surveys must be undertaken if there are active setts or foraging grounds.

Development impacts
Developers (and/or their ecologists) should provide an assessment of the impacts if no mitigation is incorporated, before assessing impact with mitigation factored in (using the following approach):

1. Aim to avoid negative effects.

2. Use mitigation measures to reduce the impacts General mitigation measures which can be incorporated into development plans:

  • Retention of main badger sett with provision of a 30m buffer zone surrounding the outermost entrances.
  • Protection measures during construction to include the erection of Heras fencing (with suitable entrances for badgers to pass underneath/ through) to ensure equipment and materials do not pass into this buffer zone.
  • During the construction period any trenches left exposed overnight within the construction site will be provided with a means of escape for badgers.
  • No artificial lighting (either during or after construction) to be positioned where it would fall on the main badger sett, or well used paths leading directly from it.
  • Protection and enhancement of the main sett area by additional planting of native trees and shrub species including some which will provide additional foraging resources.
  • The area of any main sett to be designated open space and use by people or pets discouraged by avoiding footpaths directly beside it or facilities (such as benches or dog waste bins) within it.
  • The site to include safe areas of passage away from the sett to existing foraging habitat within their territory by provision of unlit ‘green corridors’.
  • Enhancement of areas of public open space away from the main sett to improve foraging habitats for badgers.

3. Use compensation measures to offset any remaining negative impacts for badgers (this can include replacing setts that will be destroyed and improving or creating new habitat).

If badgers have to be excluded from a sett:

  • Make sure there are alternative setts nearby that badgers can relocate to.
  • Build artificial setts as early as possible and before excluding badgers from the original sett – ensure that badgers have found the artificial setts before excluding them from original setts.
  • Use 1-way badger gates for at least 21 days from the last sign of badgers accessing the sett.
  • Do not use chemical repellents.

Once badgers have been excluded, the sett should be destroyed as soon as possible and securely proofed against re-entry.

Before setts are destroyed, developers must be certain that all badgers have been excluded. This work must be done under Licence from Natural England. Licences for works will normally only be granted for works to be undertaken in the period 1st July to 30th November. Licences will only be granted when a valid planning permission is already in place.

Further information: The Badger Trust website can be found HERE.