We are excited to follow the progress of the proposed Environment Bill, which has recently reached the report stage in the House of Commons and is expected to be passed by Autumn 2021. The Bill will significantly boost the protection of hedgehogs and hopefully halt their current population decline, ensuring a better future for hedgehogs in Britain.
Why do hedgehogs need protection?
Estimates suggest that hedgehog numbers have rapidly declined by at least a third since 2000 and are continuing the downward trend. Habitat loss and fragmentation is the main cause for this decline, with greatest losses recorded in rural areas. Road deaths, dwindling food resources, slug pellets, and badger predation are also thought to exacerbate the decline. Interestingly, despite the overall negative trend, urban hedgehog populations seem to fair slightly better than those in rural areas, away from the intensive agriculture.
What does the Environmental Bill mean for hedgehogs?
The Environment Bill will add hedgehogs to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb nesting hedgehogs, kill, or traffic individuals.
The Bill will require developers to actively consider and assess impacts to hedgehogs. Based on this assessment, the provision of appropriate mitigation, compensation, and enhancement measures must be detailed and implemented within proposals to ensure the Favourable Conservation Status of the species.
What are the possible implications for developments?
Hedgehogs must be considered during extended phase 1 habitat surveys. If suitable habitat is present, hedgehog presence/absence surveys, such as camera trapping, footprint tunnels, spotlight transects, or thermal imaging, may be required.
Damage to existing nesting sites, commuting routes, and foraging resources must be avoided where possible. Where not possible, appropriate mitigation and enhancement measures must be implemented that will seek to maintain access to the food, shelter and mates as required for a sustainable population. Example of these measures includes:
- Retention of existing linear vegetation: reduces overall habitat loss and fragmentation.
- Hedgehog highways: as hedgehogs can travel 2km in a night searching for food, hedgehog highways promote foraging by linking habitats through 13cm square holes within boundaries of gardens.
- Planting areas of dense fruit-bearing native scrub: creates hibernation habitat and foraging resource.
- Log piles: creates hibernation habitat and foraging resource.
- Nest boxes: provides shelter, including winter hibernation and summer nesting habitat.
- Areas of short and long grass swards: provides foraging resource and summer nesting habitat.
- Sympathetic land management scheme: maintains favourable, long-term habitats for hedgehogs.
FPCR are experienced in integrating these measures seamlessly into proposals and are excited for what this new legislation will achieve. If you would like any advice on how to make your scheme hedgehog friendly, please get in touch.
To check on the status of the Environment Bill click here.