The Queen’s speech recently revealed government promises to improve standards of animal welfare. The Action Plan for Animal Welfare now includes the recognition of animal sentience. Under EU law animals are acknowledged as able to feel pain and emotion. However, we may also recall that MPs voted unanimously in 2017 to exclude animal sentience from post-Brexit law. According to the Badger Trust these animals “remain one of the most persecuted of all species” and this despite having a high level of legal protection. “From blood sports to developmental concerns, thousands of badgers become victims of wildlife crimes each year.” Suzanne Kelly investigates an incident in Bexhill.

PICTURE: Badger Trust

Police are investigating a potentially-illegal disturbance of a badger sett at a Pebsham/St Michaels residential property development. Claims appeared on social media on 14 April alleging someone with access to the site set fires at 29 Seabourne Road near the badgers’ habitat. Interfering with the protected species is illegal. The police and various wildlife protective organisations were informed.

Bexhill & Hastings Wildlife Rescue & Sanctuary, which helps and rescues a wide range of animals, posted on social media: “It’s been reported that builders have started a fire at the entrance to the badger sett… this fire could choke or burn the badgers.” A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “This is being investigated; if the public witnessed wildlife crime or any crime or suspicious behaviour, then they are asked to report it online or ring 101.”

This is apparently not the first time such activity at the site has taken place. A spokeswoman for The Badgers’ Trust said: “‘This looks to be a terrible, and ultimately illegal, persecution of a protected species. The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes it illegal to interfere with badgers and their setts, and this specifically includes intentionally or recklessly damaging, interfering with or destroying a badger sett. Development is an increasing threat to wildlife, and badgers in particular suffer, who may well have been resident in the area for decades. We hope that the police take this wildlife crime seriously and look to prosecute those responsible.”

 “Anyone with any information should contact Sussex Police to help with their enquiries. Information on badger crime should always be reported to the police on 999 if the crime is in progress, or 101 in a non-emergency. It can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. We ask that incidents are also reported to us to help liaise with the police were appropriate, and for our national badger crime statistics.”

Hastings Independent visited the site, which is fenced off from the public and locked. No notices are displayed to show safety information, responsible site safety contact, or contractor name. 

Permission is temporarily halted for the property conversion at 29 Seabourn Road where the badger’s sett is located, as the original planning permission expired. There is still an opportunity for members of the public to comment on the planning application on the website.

The ancient badger sett is at ‘the very far end of the development … and … could easily be fenced off and left undisturbed’

A Rother District Council spokeswoman said “We are currently considering a planning application for the site – ref RR/2020/2132/P, which will take into account the impact of development on wildlife, and additional information has been requested from the applicant”.

The planning application attracted over 580 submissions to date. Many of these are from people voicing objections, citing the badgers’ welfare.

Objectors’ comments on the current planning application include: “There are very important and clear guidelines that need to be adhered to where developers are planning to build within a badger sett vicinity, and despite the developers being aware of this, flouted the law last year. I have absolutely no confidence that they will follow the rules this time either, and implore you to refuse this application, or at least revise it allowing the existing ancient badger sett to remain. I understand the sett is at the very far end of the proposed development and that area could easily be fenced off and left undisturbed.”

Anyone who wishes to comment on the current application and have their say over the development and the badgers can do so here.

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