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.
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.”
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.