Campaigners demand protection for Norfolk hedgehogs
- Credit: Denise Bradley
Hedgehog lovers in Norfolk are backing calls for the creatures to be given extra protection under environmental laws.
Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would oblige developers to search for the creatures and take action to reduce the risk to them.
By adding hedgehogs to the list of protected animals under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is hoped this will safeguard their nesting sites. Their numbers have fallen by 30pc in urban areas since 2000.
Norwich-based Hodmedod's Hedgehog Support raises money for Norfolk's 15 rescue centres and campaigns to reverse the animals' decline in the county.
Paula Pithers, who founded the group five years ago, said: "Like everywhere Norfolk has seen a decline in hedgehog numbers for a number of reasons, one being loss of habitat. More protection would obviously be beneficial, but would have to be done in an appropriate manner.
"Safeguarding their nesting sites would be brilliant, but I'm not sure how effective it would be. A survey of the land may be done months before any clearance and as hedgehogs tend to wander and move nests throughout the year, it would be more than likely they would not be nesting in the same place once clearance starts.
"We have very recently had one of our rescues receive 3 hedgehogs from an allotment site which is being cleared in Norwich. The contractors took them to the rescue themselves, which has saved their lives, so they are very grateful. There is more land being cleared for housing, so I expect there will be more too. If only all developers were as thoughtful."
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Mr Grayling said: "It seems wrong to me, for example, that whenever a developer has to carry out a wildlife survey before starting work on a project that the hedgehog is not on anyone's radar.
"It is Britain's favourite animal. Its numbers are declining. And it should be as well protected as any other popular but threatened British animal. We worry about whether we are going to damage the habitats of badgers and bats. It's time we worried about the hedgehog too."
Mr Grayling's amendment will be debated in future weeks.