Environmental experts begin badger surveys in Tweedmouth cemetery
Environmental experts have started badger surveys in Tweedmouth Cemetery.
The results will form part of Northumberland County Council’s application to Natural England for a licence to relocate the badger setts.
The presence of badgers in the cemetery and their foraging activity has caused great concern, with some localised damage being caused to the surface of graves and other grassed areas within the cemetery.
Concerns have also been raised by the local community over a perceived risk that the badgers tunnelling activity may also cause disturbance to buried remains, albeit there is no evidence of this to date.
Specialist consultants OS Ecology Limited started their survey on October 15, which includes mapping out the location of the setts, badger numbers and use of cameras to record activity.
Setts that are situated offsite to the west of the cemetery, and which appear to be recently used, will also be included. The survey will take between three to four weeks.
The council has also appointed a firm specialising in ground penetrating radar equipment in order to try and determine the location and extent of the underground tunnels associated with the badger setts. It is hoped that this work will conclude with confidence whether the setts and the badgers pose any risk to buried remains at a subterranean level.
Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member for local services, said: “We fully understand that this is a very difficult situation and are continuing to do our very best to deal with any problems that the badgers cause.
“Initially, senior officials from Natural England felt the current location of the setts and the surface damage being caused would not be sufficient for them to consider the granting of a licence for the badgers' relocation.
“This view was strongly disputed by local residents who believe the badgers are in greater numbers and causing more damage than first believed and we have listened closely to their concerns.
“We have since held a further meeting with Natural England at the cemetery to reiterate the concerns of both the council and local residents and were advised to take the current course of action.
“The information that we are now gathering, using specialist technology and independent experts, will provide strong and irrefutable evidence of the numbers and activities of the badgers which we will present to Natural England.”
Council officers have also had a site visit with amenity specialists and following their advice procured some entomopathogenic nematodes to targeting and eradicating some of their favourite food sources and encourag them to forage elsewhere.
The county council has also taken forward other requests by residents for improvements to the cemetery.
An enhanced winter maintenance programme has been agreed which will include some more intense cutting back of shrubs and hedges and some additional tree pruning.
The frequency of bin emptying has been increased and there will be more bins provided.
A public bench is also to be installed halfway up the street road to the top section of the cemetery.
The authority is also pricing up improvements to the main road through the cemetery and will assess the affordability of these once the costs are known.
Badgers and their setts are protected under law, making it an offence to intentionally attempt to kill, injure or trap one, or interfere with their habitats.