OBG spends a lot of time and energy finding, reviewing and commenting on planning applications that affect badgers. We try to make sure the badgers interests and safety are as fully protected as possible. It is considered best practice to involve the local badger group at the planning stage. OBG is keen to work with planners, developers and ecologists in deciding the best options. Our core position is that main setts should be left in situ with secure, continuing access to foraging grounds. If that is not possible then appropriate mitigation measures must be taken. Any work in the vicinity of an occupied sett that might disturb badgers will require a licence from Natural England.
Development is rampaging across Oxfordshire. Cherwell is about to commit to a 40% increase in housing over the next 15 years – much of it greenfield. Oxford city says it needs another 24,000 and 32,000 homes up to 2031. Our other District Councils have similar targets. This is very bad news for our badgers. Main setts in particular, because of their sprawling nature and typical settings (disused plots of overgrown land or 'worthless scrub land') are highly vulnerable to development. Since badgers are a protected species, a licence is needed to interfere with their setts. Sadly this seems to offer little protection - the development will go ahead after the badgers have been 'humanely' moved on. Since work cannot be done during the closed season we generally can expect a flurry of sett closures between July and November. Badger mitigation work can cost the developer time and effort. So public scrutiny helps ensure any interference is done professionally and legally.
It is always reassuring when a developer is prepared to engage with us and allow access for site visits
If you 'watch over' a badger sett please look out for local development proposals. Oxfordshire Councils, like so many in the country are performing strategic reviews of housing and other development needs. Massive targets are being set for future development. These reviews are looking to allocate green field or even Green Belt land for large scale housing, warehousing, commercial areas, solar farms, reservoirs etc. In some areas, detailed Local Neighbourhood Plans are also being produced. It is very worthwhile to keep track of any that affect your area and to take part in any consultation.
Each of Oxfordshire’s councils make planning information available over the internet. It is possible to visit their website periodically and search locations of interest. Councils have to consider all feedback received up to the time of decision. However, a very limited period – usually 28 days from the date of notice - is allowed for public consultation. It is best to respond within that time if at all possible. Only residents affected by the plan will be directly notified – by letter or signs on lamp posts. The Parish Council planning committees will also be informed. They also have only 28 days to reply.
The best way to be alerted to planning applications is to register with your District council and ask to be notified of any in your area (e.g. your parish or near ‘your’ badger sett) The Council should email (or write) promptly if any relevant applications are submitted. Once an application is accepted the submission documents will be posted on the web for public view. The material is confidential and parts may be redacted (blanked out). Details can be viewed at the council offices during working hours.
Applications to develop open spaces should provide an environmental or ecology report (or justify why not). That’s the best place to look if you are concerned for badgers or other wildlife. Increasingly councils will withold 'confidential' badgers reports though it is difficult to see how this helps protect them from inappropriate development. If you know the plot is sensitive and the assessment of ecological impact is inadequate then contact OBG and the responsible planning or environmental officer to query this immediately. Anyone can comment on a planning application as many times as they wish. Be polite and factual - your name, address and comments will be posted up alongside the application documents for anyone to see.
Please contact OBG as soon as you learn of an application that impacts a badger sett or affects their foraging (feeding) areas. We will need to know the Council, planning application number and deadline to investigate.