Brentwood Council accused of “ecological vandalism” after badgers blocked from homes

Expelling endangered badgers from a huge sett on council land in Brentwood is akin to “ecological vandalism”, campaigners have said.

Darren Parker, vice chairman of Essex Badger Protection Group, said the decision from the borough council to allow a huge badger sett in La Plata Wood to be covered in wire fencing, which forces badgers away, is even more serious given the authority has only just designated the area a community asset to ensure the long-term protection of the wildlife in it.

He said: “I am absolutely disgusted by it.

“I find the decision that has been made there very strange and I am escalating complaints with Natural England, who licensed the work, and the council directly.”

He had earlier tweeted: “Utterly outrageous behaviour from a local council. This sett had been known to @EssexBadgers for over 50 years but the badgers have now been evicted simply because they were too close to an adjacent building site. No justification for this sort of ecological vandalism.”

He said the large sett has been covered in wire following concerns from a developer’s ecologist that the badgers are living too close to some of the sites that are being developed on the wood’s periphery.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “Brentwood Borough Council owns woodland to the south of the badger sett area and a licence to grant the temporary closure of the sett was granted by Natural England on June 21, 2021.”

It is far from certain that the badgers will return if the wire is eventually removed when the development is finished.

Government guidance states licences to exclude badgers and to close down or destroy a sett are only issued between July 1 and November 30, “other than in exceptional circumstances”.

The borough council agreed to list La Plata Wood as an Asset of Community Value on June 28 in order to ensure its future as a “vital wildlife habitat”.

Mr Parker said: “To execute the licence the ecologist would need permission from Brentwood Council as the land owner.

“And that is where I am frankly astonished that that permission was given – given it is their land and is supposedly being managed as a community asset.”

Moreover he added that under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 “every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity”.

He said: “There are laws that compel a council to agree development wherever possible, but there are other competing laws which compel them to protect biodiversity. And I believe that if you can’t allow a development to go ahead without disturbing the biodiversity of an area you are supposedly managing as a community asset, then you have to refuse it.”

A spokesperson for Natural England said: “Natural England Wildlife Licensing Service can confirm it has received a complaint from the Essex Badger Protection Group regarding a licence issued for La Plata Grove. A response was issued to the Essex Badger Protection Group on Friday August 6.

“Badgers are a protected species and any work that might disturb them or require interference with their setts must be fully licensed and follow strict guidelines.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter