The hedgehogs’ highway to recovery

07.08.19

Frightened hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, balled up on background fir and juniper branches

Hedgehogs are a native and widespread animal in Great Britain, and are one of the nations most loved animals. However, they are suffering steep declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation. A recent estimate has stated that there are approximately 1 million hedgehogs in Great Britain which represents a 97% fall from the 30 million estimated to have been present in the 1950’s.

Hedgehogs are a species “of principal importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity” covered under Section 41 (England) of the NERC Act (2006), which means that planning authorities must have regards for the species when determining planning applications. However, how this is to be achieved has been difficult to determine.

Recently, there have been calls for hedgehogs to receive greater consideration within new developments, including a petition which gained more than half a million signatures to ensure every new housing development has built in holes for hedgehogs to move between gardens. These holes are commonly called ‘hedgehog highways’, and are achieved through incorporating a 13 cm x 13 cm hole in the bottom of a closed border fencing to allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens. The style of fencing can also aid hedgehog movement, such as moving away from closed border fencing entirely, and utilising fences with open bottoms. These measures will also be in line with the Lawton principles of making our network of sites “bigger, better, and more joined up” as well as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2019 which aims topromote the conservation, restoration and enhancement of ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species”.

The call for improvements to developments for hedgehogs has been aided by a new publication by Hedgehog Street “Hedgehogs and Development” — which is a collaborative project between British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

In response to these new calls for action, the UK government has provided new guidance on how to protect wildlife during the construction of new homes. The new guidance states: “relatively small features can often achieve important benefits for wildlife, such as … providing safe routes for hedgehogs between different areas of habitat.”

These new guidelines will ensure that all new housing developments incorporate hedgehog highways within new builds to ensure connectivity is provided, and also for a variety of other species. These measures have the potential to help aid the recovery of hedgehog and help achieve better ecological networks across the country.

If you would like further guidance on how to incorporate hedgehog highways and other measures to conserve hedgehogs in your development, please get in touch with our ecology team on ecology@recltd.co.uk.