Planning & Environment

In August 2019, I wrote about the measures being adopted by UK developers to protect wildlife.  With the backdrop of the UK and Scottish Government’s responses to climate change, it is clear that planning for wildlife continues to pique the interest of the UK construction industry.

From bat and swift bricks to wildlife bridges, increasingly innovative measures designed to protect wildlife are being considered at the planning stages of projects.  To coincide with the annual Hedgehog Awareness Week, which ended on 9 May 2020, particular attention will be drawn to the developers taking protective steps to increase the population of our dear British hedgehogs.

The Decline of UK Hedgehogs

The UK hedgehog population has declined drastically over the past two decades, and one of the reasons for such a sharp decline is believed to be the reduction in the amount of land available to hedgehogs.  Hedgehogs travel around one mile every night to find food, shelter and a mate.  With fences and walls becoming more secure, their access to suitable land is being restricted (Hedgehog Street).

Wildlife charities have been campaigning to remedy this design defect by calling for the introduction of ‘hedgehog highways’ across UK gardens.

What is a Hedgehog Highway?

A hedgehog highway is simply a 13cm by 13cm space in a wall or fence which allows hedgehogs to roam freely to satisfy their basic needs.

Planning Impact

There is nothing specific contained within UK planning law which prevents you from creating a hedgehog highway in your wall or fence, in fact, in England, it is encouraged, particularly in new developments.

It would, however, be common sense to consider how the hole you intend to create will impact upon neighbouring gardens or properties, and advice should be sought from your local council before any such works are undertaken if you live in a conservation area and/or the wall to be adapted is listed.

Recent Developments – England

In January 2020, the England-based developer Bovis Homes released the news that they would be installing hedgehog highways in their current and future housing projects in order to increase the hedgehog habitat in urban areas.  They also intend to put hedgehog houses in green spaces within developments in order to increase nesting opportunities for local hedgehogs (Hedgehog Street).

 

Recent Developments – Scotland

Following an approach by a local resident, the Scotland-based developer, A & J Stephen, recently announced their commitment to becoming “one of the first builders in Scotland” (Perth Courier) to provide hedgehog highways within their developments.

It is understood that John Stephen, Managing Director of A&J Stephen, said,

 

“We are delighted to be introducing hedgehog highways within our developments, a move we plan to roll-out across all developments in the months and years ahead.  As housebuilders, we have an obligation to protect the environment and protecting declining species is very much part of that.”


Conclusion

Wildlife author and ecologist Hugh Warwick believes that the built environment could help hedgehogs recover if developments are built with wildlife in mind.

With bat and swift bricks, squirrel boxes and wildlife bridges becoming increasingly popular choices within the UK’s construction industry, it will certainly be interesting to see whether hedgehog highways become a regular feature in the gardens of new developments.

Hannah Darnell
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