CULL companies and representatives from the NFU will not be present in the control room during this year’s badger culls, Avon and Somerset Police has confirmed.

The announcement comes as the start date of the continued culling trials in Somerset and Gloucestershire approaches.

It is not yet known precisely when the culls will start this year, however it is almost a year since the first round of pilot culls began.

Police faced criticism after a document leaked in May revealed a representative of the NFU was present in the force’s control room while badgers were being shot.

They defended their decision to invite the members of the union and a badger cull company, saying the action was taken to ensure public safety.

Supt Kevin Instance from Avon and Somerset Police told representatives from Somerset Against the Badger Cull and Somerset Badger Patrol that they would not have cull companies in the control room this year.

He said: “Last year I was the first police commander in the UK to have responsibility for policing the consequences of a pilot badger cull of this nature involving the live shooting at night.

“There was lots of uncertainty on how the pilot would develop and what issues the police would face.

“Maximising public safety and having the situational awareness of what was happening on the ground were the key parts of my planning.

“Having now experienced the cull activity last year and having debriefed and consulted extensively, I feel that I am now able to build a command and control arrangement that will not including having representatives from the cull company and NFU in the police control room without compromising safety.

"We will continue to listen to and work with the community and all interested parties to make sure that any future pilot culls are conducted safely.”

Organisers from the group added: “We had a very constructive meeting with Avon and Somerset Constabulary recently in order to discuss operational procedures surrounding the proposed badger cull this year.

“It is the latest of several meetings we’ve had over the last few months and we will be meeting with the police again to discuss other matters prior to the onset of the cull.

“The police understand that last year there were major concerns about the NFU and operatives from the cull companies working in close proximity to members of the police in a small operational room during such a sensitive period.”