Concerns over badgers "destroying" prized Ilminster heritage sites

Cllr Roger Swann next to one of the setts by the old canal.

Cllr Roger Swann next to one of the setts by the old canal.

First published in News
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This is The West Country: Photograph of the Author by

ACTION could be taken to save prized heritage sites in Ilminster from being destroyed by badgers, it has emerged.

Concerns have been raised by a number of town councillors after badgers were found to be damaging a number of sites including digging up part of a medieval road near Herne Hill.

Badgers are also said to be damaging the canal wall between the recreation ground and Britten’s Field.

And there are several large holes created by badgers on the playing fields at Britten’s Field which wardens are concerned could injure dog walkers, runners and children if they put their feet down them.

Some councillors want to see action taken to save the heritage sites while others are concerned that they could feel the backlash from badger protestors.

Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 it is an offence to wilfully kill badgers, dig for them or destroy their setts.

Cllr Roger Swann said: “I feel that if there’s a health and safety problem in the playing field we must be seen to be doing something.

“We should be protecting our heritage sites because this is the last bit of one or two pieces along the Taunton to Chard canal, and this is our piece.”

Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Badger Group, said there are exceptions when people can apply to Natural England for a licence to help control badgers.

He said: “We’re not aware of any specific problems in Ilminster, but where development has taken place in the south-west of the town it had quite an impact on badger movement.

“I’m happy to meet councillors to look at the damage and give advice to see what work could be undertaken under a licence.

This is The West Country:

Cllr Roger Swann up to his knees in one of the burrows.

“We’d want to help local residents and authorities so they can make a decision whether they want to take action.”

The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal opened in 1827, and eight years later, work on Chard Canal, a 13½-mile feeder canal, started so goods could be transported.

All that remains of the old canal today is the stretch of water at the western end of the Recreation Ground from which the tug boats were hauled up the 80ft incline to the tunnel entrance.

Cllr Carol Goodall, chair of the open spaces committee, said something needs to be done if parts of the town’s heritage are being destroyed.

Cllr David Miller said: “The only predator to badgers is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing.

“Under the current legislation it’s extremely difficult.”

This is The West Country:

One of the metre-high burrows next to the Old Medieval Road on the Incline.

Cllr Stuart Shepherd said they managed to curb problems with burrows at the cricket club.

He said: “We have to be careful, but we definitely need to do something about it to preserve the canal heritage site.”

But Cllr Val Keitch said she would be “very against” any action because of the high-profile ongoing badger cull campaign.

Comments (9)

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11:23am Wed 28 May 14

God's elected spokesperson says...

Once again, an apparent attempt by some to demonize badgers.
We are told that not only do they spread BTB and ruin agriculture, but now they are destroying our heritage..... I suppose they're doing it deliberately...!

Perhaps the next headline will be: "CONCERNS OVER COUNCIL DESTROYING PRIZED ILMINSTER WILDLIFE- RATHER THAN PROTECTING IT"

The view of a Councillor regarding badger numbers growing and growing, suggests that for some, this isn't about heritage, nor the safety of the public.

The health and safety argument may be justified, however, surely in this day and age something can be done without it becoming another easy excuse to blame badgers and disturb or kill them.

Of course heritage is important, but let's not forget that most damage is done to heritage by Councils approving insensitive, ill-conceived building developments etc. The badgers were most likely there before the medieval road and canal wall anyway- and in my view, frankly, natural heritage is far more important than anything man-made.

Hopefully, this Council, alongside the Badger Group and Natural England will consider and resolve this sensibly, and fulfil their responsibility to look after our natural heritage, which is so often forgotten.

If it ultimately comes to a choice between preserving the badgers, or the historic site, the big question is: Does a native species need it's life and habitat more than we need a dilapidated, redundant relic of past industry?
Once again, an apparent attempt by some to demonize badgers. We are told that not only do they spread BTB and ruin agriculture, but now they are destroying our heritage..... I suppose they're doing it deliberately...! Perhaps the next headline will be: "CONCERNS OVER COUNCIL DESTROYING PRIZED ILMINSTER WILDLIFE- RATHER THAN PROTECTING IT" The view of a Councillor regarding badger numbers growing and growing, suggests that for some, this isn't about heritage, nor the safety of the public. The health and safety argument may be justified, however, surely in this day and age something can be done without it becoming another easy excuse to blame badgers and disturb or kill them. Of course heritage is important, but let's not forget that most damage is done to heritage by Councils approving insensitive, ill-conceived building developments etc. The badgers were most likely there before the medieval road and canal wall anyway- and in my view, frankly, natural heritage is far more important than anything man-made. Hopefully, this Council, alongside the Badger Group and Natural England will consider and resolve this sensibly, and fulfil their responsibility to look after our natural heritage, which is so often forgotten. If it ultimately comes to a choice between preserving the badgers, or the historic site, the big question is: Does a native species need it's life and habitat more than we need a dilapidated, redundant relic of past industry? God's elected spokesperson
  • Score: 19

1:44pm Wed 28 May 14

Red Ruffian says...

This demonisation of badgers is ridiculous. If they have moved due to development, it is our fault they have moved - or been moved, licitly or not. Badgers are an ancient species, a lot older, and to many a lot more interesting than "a stretch of water " that used to be a canal nearly two centuries ago.

As to the numbers of badgers, remember the lesson that should have been learned by DEFRA in their ill-founded "research" prior to last year's badger "cull". Even when they halved the numbers that were supposed to be present, they struggled to find enough badgers to kill to make 75% of their initial target. The badger's greatest - and only - enemy is man, and we kill 40% of their population each year by running them over in our cars.

Councillor Roger Swann could - and should - be prosecuted for interfering with a badger sett: the evidence is in the photographs above.

I can appreciate the concern generated by holes appearing in playing fields - so fence them off, to prevent people walking into them inadvertently. I urge the councillors to take Mr Coward's advice and to act on it - work with Nature, not against it: as Nature has a nasty habit of biting those who seek to damage it in the bum!
This demonisation of badgers is ridiculous. If they have moved due to development, it is our fault they have moved - or been moved, licitly or not. Badgers are an ancient species, a lot older, and to many a lot more interesting than "a stretch of water " that used to be a canal nearly two centuries ago. As to the numbers of badgers, remember the lesson that should have been learned by DEFRA in their ill-founded "research" prior to last year's badger "cull". Even when they halved the numbers that were supposed to be present, they struggled to find enough badgers to kill to make 75% of their initial target. The badger's greatest - and only - enemy is man, and we kill 40% of their population each year by running them over in our cars. Councillor Roger Swann could - and should - be prosecuted for interfering with a badger sett: the evidence is in the photographs above. I can appreciate the concern generated by holes appearing in playing fields - so fence them off, to prevent people walking into them inadvertently. I urge the councillors to take Mr Coward's advice and to act on it - work with Nature, not against it: as Nature has a nasty habit of biting those who seek to damage it in the bum! Red Ruffian
  • Score: 19

2:12pm Wed 28 May 14

HackneyDancer says...

Badgers numbers are not "growing and growing" as quoted here. Vast numbers are killed on roads every year and coupled with habitat destruction, this is not a population spiralling out of control. I agree with Mr Ruffian that sett entrances should be fenced to prevent accidental falls and ensuing compensation claims. But seriously, let's have a little more empathy: how about a "badger cam" and public talks to raise awareness of these striking mammals.I am sure that Mr Coward would be happy to oblige and I am certain that the people of Ilminster can be persuaded to share their space with our shy, reclusive badgers.
Badgers numbers are not "growing and growing" as quoted here. Vast numbers are killed on roads every year and coupled with habitat destruction, this is not a population spiralling out of control. I agree with Mr Ruffian that sett entrances should be fenced to prevent accidental falls and ensuing compensation claims. But seriously, let's have a little more empathy: how about a "badger cam" and public talks to raise awareness of these striking mammals.I am sure that Mr Coward would be happy to oblige and I am certain that the people of Ilminster can be persuaded to share their space with our shy, reclusive badgers. HackneyDancer
  • Score: 16

8:19pm Wed 28 May 14

Hugo101 says...

The badgers where there long before the medieval road was built.
Man has come along and built roads, canals and railways and the badger has adapted. But there is a limit when man invades so much of the wildlife's territory.
Now Cllr David Miller said: “The only predator to badgers is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing.

The Countryside Alliance would say to justify fox hunting: “The only predator to foxes is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing.

The National Farmers Union would say: “The only predator to badgers is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing.

But the numbers are in decline as traffic increases and both industrial and domestic house building continue to invade there homes and farmers cull them illegally.

Shame on Cllr Rodger Swann, he just wants the badgers killed because they get in the way of his idea of progress.
The badgers where there long before the medieval road was built. Man has come along and built roads, canals and railways and the badger has adapted. But there is a limit when man invades so much of the wildlife's territory. Now Cllr David Miller said: “The only predator to badgers is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing. The Countryside Alliance would say to justify fox hunting: “The only predator to foxes is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing. The National Farmers Union would say: “The only predator to badgers is man, so unless something’s done their numbers will just keep growing and growing. But the numbers are in decline as traffic increases and both industrial and domestic house building continue to invade there homes and farmers cull them illegally. Shame on Cllr Rodger Swann, he just wants the badgers killed because they get in the way of his idea of progress. Hugo101
  • Score: 10

10:02pm Wed 28 May 14

orchardman says...

Quite agree with all the above comments, and as for Ilminsters' heritage, on reading the towns website, I can't say there is much mention of the history of the 'pond' which is the best way to describe the remnant of the canal, and it certainly isn't a tourist attraction. In fact, bearing in mind the modern trend for 'elf and safety, the stretch of water is probably a greater hazard than the badgers. As for the 'medieval road', I doubt many people are even aware of its existence!. Anyway, the way things are going on within the town, it won't be a problem for too long since the 'backhand brigade' will have built on it anyway.
Quite agree with all the above comments, and as for Ilminsters' heritage, on reading the towns website, I can't say there is much mention of the history of the 'pond' which is the best way to describe the remnant of the canal, and it certainly isn't a tourist attraction. In fact, bearing in mind the modern trend for 'elf and safety, the stretch of water is probably a greater hazard than the badgers. As for the 'medieval road', I doubt many people are even aware of its existence!. Anyway, the way things are going on within the town, it won't be a problem for too long since the 'backhand brigade' will have built on it anyway. orchardman
  • Score: 10

10:08pm Wed 28 May 14

Dick Turpin Works For Council says...

It is always wise to be suspicious of the motives of Councillors (or indeed any politicians, petty or grand).
Is this linked to any suggestions about "developing" the wider area, to the benefit of their mates amongst landowners and in the local construction trade?
It is always wise to be suspicious of the motives of Councillors (or indeed any politicians, petty or grand). Is this linked to any suggestions about "developing" the wider area, to the benefit of their mates amongst landowners and in the local construction trade? Dick Turpin Works For Council
  • Score: 10

6:55pm Thu 29 May 14

Jimsainsbury says...

Well there seems to be some support for the poor persecuted badger. I assume those in support are happy to have them track through their property and dig large holes in their lawns and dig up their vegetables as they do mine. Just this week one decided to dig a hole and leave a present. Where is the evidence of a decline in numbers locally? Visit Herne Hill, the old railway cutting towards Donyatt, the field hedge to the north of Herne Hill, the Cresent play park boundary, waste land below Springfield, the banks of Shudrick stream behind the Canal Way development. Large setts and probably large numbers of badgers and not including any not visible from public rights of way.
I love wild life and I have spent a career in agriculture so can see both sides of the argument but there must surely be a balance.
As for anti-development, where are you people living? The building of your property probably upset a "local" and at the same time provided the developer with a profit, however long ago it was built.
Well there seems to be some support for the poor persecuted badger. I assume those in support are happy to have them track through their property and dig large holes in their lawns and dig up their vegetables as they do mine. Just this week one decided to dig a hole and leave a present. Where is the evidence of a decline in numbers locally? Visit Herne Hill, the old railway cutting towards Donyatt, the field hedge to the north of Herne Hill, the Cresent play park boundary, waste land below Springfield, the banks of Shudrick stream behind the Canal Way development. Large setts and probably large numbers of badgers and not including any not visible from public rights of way. I love wild life and I have spent a career in agriculture so can see both sides of the argument but there must surely be a balance. As for anti-development, where are you people living? The building of your property probably upset a "local" and at the same time provided the developer with a profit, however long ago it was built. Jimsainsbury
  • Score: -7

10:56pm Thu 29 May 14

orchardman says...

Seem to remember a few years ago when a planning application to build in the vicinity of Frog Lane was refused because of the badger setts in the area. In fact a culvert was placed under the path for the benefit of the animals. However, in the intervening years we have seen the flats in Walnut Place built, and more recently Badger ( how's that for irony?) Mews appear close to the same site without mention of the badgers. As far as I know the legislation regarding the disturbance of the animals didn't change, or maybe they just decide to uproot and move to the old canal to annoy Cllr Swann !!!. Methinks not, more likely a case of knowing the right people for the later application. Yes, they do cause problems and I'm sure the farmer shortly to lose her land to developers must worry because of the threat to her cattle, but that man-made development will cause far more harm to the environment than the badgers ever will.
Seem to remember a few years ago when a planning application to build in the vicinity of Frog Lane was refused because of the badger setts in the area. In fact a culvert was placed under the path for the benefit of the animals. However, in the intervening years we have seen the flats in Walnut Place built, and more recently Badger ( how's that for irony?) Mews appear close to the same site without mention of the badgers. As far as I know the legislation regarding the disturbance of the animals didn't change, or maybe they just decide to uproot and move to the old canal to annoy Cllr Swann !!!. Methinks not, more likely a case of knowing the right people for the later application. Yes, they do cause problems and I'm sure the farmer shortly to lose her land to developers must worry because of the threat to her cattle, but that man-made development will cause far more harm to the environment than the badgers ever will. orchardman
  • Score: 6

10:31am Fri 30 May 14

God's elected spokesperson says...

Jimsainsbury wrote:
Well there seems to be some support for the poor persecuted badger. I assume those in support are happy to have them track through their property and dig large holes in their lawns and dig up their vegetables as they do mine. Just this week one decided to dig a hole and leave a present. Where is the evidence of a decline in numbers locally? Visit Herne Hill, the old railway cutting towards Donyatt, the field hedge to the north of Herne Hill, the Cresent play park boundary, waste land below Springfield, the banks of Shudrick stream behind the Canal Way development. Large setts and probably large numbers of badgers and not including any not visible from public rights of way.
I love wild life and I have spent a career in agriculture so can see both sides of the argument but there must surely be a balance.
As for anti-development, where are you people living? The building of your property probably upset a "local" and at the same time provided the developer with a profit, however long ago it was built.
You are right in your assertion that there is some support for the badger, and when people feel they cannot trust their local Councils to do the right thing by wildlife, we have to speak up.
I do understand where you're coming from and agree that there must be a balance. However, the current inbalance is massively against wildlife, as the impact of development, agriculture, pollution, roads etc largely sacrifices nature for all of these things. So if anything, any sacrifices made now should be ours, if we honestly want 'balance.'

However, the other problem is that some people seem to take a completely intolerant and hypocritical approach to wildlife, ie on the one hand, stating they love it, but really only so long as it doesn't inconvenience them in any way or -heaven forbid- damage their precious garden. This kind of thinking forms no basis for a 'balanced' debate and resolution of any kind.

Everyone has their own point of view, but when people base their arguments (and potentially a decision) on a presumption that there are large numbers of badgers in these 'large setts,' one has to ask what is the evidence of a RISE in numbers locally? Plus how would you define 'large' numbers and by what standard? Also does this assumption take into account those killed a) accidentally on roads, b) in last year's cull, and c) illegally?

As badgers have been in the news recently with the BTB issue, we are all more conscious of them and thus more likely to notice evidence of them now more than ever, regardless of figures. In my view, the numbers argument can therefore never work, even if we knew exactly how many there are (and were), where they are most concentrated, what impact these figures have upon the wider ecosystem at present and in the future; and all with/without our intervention.

Regarding the development point, I personally don't think anyone who has posted is just 'anti-development' on principle. Development should be, at worst a necessary evil and at best an improvement of the landscape all-round. Sadly, for numerous reasons, all too often bad ones are approved by incompetent Councils, without enough consideration for both the built and natural heritage, including its vital wildlife. Also, undeniably, the impact upon ecosystems by agriculture is another huge consideration.

Where there is conflict between people and animals, more often than not it is a result of our own stupidity and intolerance of their natural behaviour. If people really feel that the privilege of living in close proximity to this particular species isn't worth the hassle, and are not prepared to seek a solution which respects the badgers' right to an existence, then maybe they should consider moving to a flat in the suburbs and get out of politics.
[quote][p][bold]Jimsainsbury[/bold] wrote: Well there seems to be some support for the poor persecuted badger. I assume those in support are happy to have them track through their property and dig large holes in their lawns and dig up their vegetables as they do mine. Just this week one decided to dig a hole and leave a present. Where is the evidence of a decline in numbers locally? Visit Herne Hill, the old railway cutting towards Donyatt, the field hedge to the north of Herne Hill, the Cresent play park boundary, waste land below Springfield, the banks of Shudrick stream behind the Canal Way development. Large setts and probably large numbers of badgers and not including any not visible from public rights of way. I love wild life and I have spent a career in agriculture so can see both sides of the argument but there must surely be a balance. As for anti-development, where are you people living? The building of your property probably upset a "local" and at the same time provided the developer with a profit, however long ago it was built.[/p][/quote]You are right in your assertion that there is some support for the badger, and when people feel they cannot trust their local Councils to do the right thing by wildlife, we have to speak up. I do understand where you're coming from and agree that there must be a balance. However, the current inbalance is massively against wildlife, as the impact of development, agriculture, pollution, roads etc largely sacrifices nature for all of these things. So if anything, any sacrifices made now should be ours, if we honestly want 'balance.' However, the other problem is that some people seem to take a completely intolerant and hypocritical approach to wildlife, ie on the one hand, stating they love it, but really only so long as it doesn't inconvenience them in any way or -heaven forbid- damage their precious garden. This kind of thinking forms no basis for a 'balanced' debate and resolution of any kind. Everyone has their own point of view, but when people base their arguments (and potentially a decision) on a presumption that there are large numbers of badgers in these 'large setts,' one has to ask what is the evidence of a RISE in numbers locally? Plus how would you define 'large' numbers and by what standard? Also does this assumption take into account those killed a) accidentally on roads, b) in last year's cull, and c) illegally? As badgers have been in the news recently with the BTB issue, we are all more conscious of them and thus more likely to notice evidence of them now more than ever, regardless of figures. In my view, the numbers argument can therefore never work, even if we knew exactly how many there are (and were), where they are most concentrated, what impact these figures have upon the wider ecosystem at present and in the future; and all with/without our intervention. Regarding the development point, I personally don't think anyone who has posted is just 'anti-development' on principle. Development should be, at worst a necessary evil and at best an improvement of the landscape all-round. Sadly, for numerous reasons, all too often bad ones are approved by incompetent Councils, without enough consideration for both the built and natural heritage, including its vital wildlife. Also, undeniably, the impact upon ecosystems by agriculture is another huge consideration. Where there is conflict between people and animals, more often than not it is a result of our own stupidity and intolerance of their natural behaviour. If people really feel that the privilege of living in close proximity to this particular species isn't worth the hassle, and are not prepared to seek a solution which respects the badgers' right to an existence, then maybe they should consider moving to a flat in the suburbs and get out of politics. God's elected spokesperson
  • Score: 10

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