Mitigating the impacts of development

Last week many of us from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Conservation Team attended the Suffolk Norfolk Annual Planning and Biodiversity Seminar – a chance for organisations to share projects and best practice to help mitigate the impacts of development on the environment.

SWT were invited to give a talk about hedgehogs in a planning context – easy ways the impacts of development can be mitigated, and developments enhanced for hedgehogs. There were two types of impact I spoke about – the impact of habitat clearance and the longer term impact of habitat change.

The ideal situation would always involve retaining important habitat features – hedgerows, bramble patches, moist grassland. Unfortunately this is not always feasible for smaller developments. In these cases, the timing and method of habitat reduction is then really important to consider. A high cut, low cut method will reduce mortality, and an autumn clearance will avoid the bulk of the breeding season, be before hibernation, and will limit the impact to other species in the area.

Larger developments need to think about habitat retention and good design. Connectivity across the development is critical, both on a broad scale in terms of the positioning of housing and green spaces, and on a fine scale when considering housing boundaries. Ground level fence holes (13x13cm) are effective and easy to include in developments of any size. We hope consultants and planning officers will recommend these for all developments.

Fencing contractors are getting on board with this idea, with some companies now advertising hedgehog friendly options – both wooden and concrete gravel boards – which is incredibly promising. Fencing companies actively promoting these options will increase their uptake and increase awareness. This is an area all hedgehog officers in the UK are working on – hopefully companies will be displaying these wildlife friendly options more and more! Housing developers are getting on board too – back in 2004 Bovis included hedgehog highways in a housing development in Norwich and more recent  Bovis developments have also included hedgehog houses in green spaces. Russell Armor Homes have this year committed to including hedgehog highways in 56 of its houses and Barratt Developments is working with RSPB to create wildlife friendly housing on a development of around 2500 buildings.

Progress is certainly being made by organisations across the country, including Hedgehog Street, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. We hope awareness will continue to rise among consultants, planning officers, architects, garden landscapers, fencing companies and garden owners. By working together we can make a real difference for hedgehogs in urban areas!

Other talks at the seminar looked at the ecology, threats and action of other UK species that were once common, such as the Common toad and Common swift. There were lots of parallels between the talks, especially for toads and hedgehogs  – many of the actions we are promoting will really help amphibians too.

We are currently working with local fencing contractors to promote hedgehog friendly fencing options in Ipswich – updates to follow!