Everyone loves hedgehogs, but how are they considered on development sites? Here are a few key considerations:
1. Where are you likely to find hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are found across much of the UK. Gardens, hedgerows, woodlands and parklands are all important habitats. In summer hedgehogs can roam 1-2 km per night in search of food (often slugs, worms and insects) over an area of 10-50 ha. They hibernate in winter, between November and March. Areas that provide suitable foraging habitat as well as somewhere for hedgehogs to find shelter should set the “hedgehog” bells ringing when on site.
Hedgehogs should be considered throughout the year. In summer they may stray into construction sites (see section 3 below) and in winter they can be particularly vulnerable during site clearance as they are hibernating and inactive.
2. Why do we consider hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are not fully protected in the same way as bats or newts (whereby the animals and their resting places are protected from damage and destruction). However, hedgehogs are listed on Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (more commonly abbreviated to the NERC Act). Section 41 draws upon the UK BAP List of Priority Species and Habitats.
What this means for development is that the NERC Act places a duty on Local Planning Authorities in England to have due regard to biodiversity, and in particular, the 943 species of principal importance, as listed under Section 41 of NERC (2006). These include certain species of plants, mammals, birds, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish and fungi. Hedgehogs are listed as a species of principal importance. You can find the full list of Section 41 species on the Natural History Museum website here.
However, no specific surveys are needed prior to works on sites that may support hedgehogs.
How do we put considerations in place?
Our course of action, as ecologists, is to consider the following (in order):
- How can we avoid impacts? Where possible, habitat that could be used by species such as hedgehogs is retained. This may include existing hedgerows.
- How can we mitigate for impacts? This could include cutting holes in boundary fences of housing estates to allow hedgehogs to travel between gardens, allowing these habitats to remain available to them. Hedgehogs can travel up to 2 km in a night, so making sure they can get around is important. This can also include putting in measures to protect hedgehogs during the construction process. In summer, providing a means of escape from foundation works is an example of mitigation, and in winter a search for hibernating hedgehogs should be carried out before certain vegetation clearance begins.
- How can we compensate for impacts? By replacing habitat that is lost, such as hedgerows, we can ensure habitat connectivity in the long term.
- How can we enhance the site? If we have already considered the methods of avoiding and mitigating for impacts to the site we can then also recommend enhancements to the site. For hedgehogs this could include a hedgehog home (a box for hedgehogs to shelter in). These are however an enhancement measure, and should not be used for compensation.
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