UPDATE: Environment Agency defends badger works following cull call

Reeds growing along the River Steeping are adding to the flood risk caused by badger sets. ANL-160913-090950001 ANL-160913-090950001
Reeds growing along the River Steeping are adding to the flood risk caused by badger sets. ANL-160913-090950001 ANL-160913-090950001

The Environment Agency has defended its work to clear badger setts in the county following calls by a county councillor for a cull.

At a meeting held last Wednesday, Coun Chris Pain quoted an FOI request on the cost of moving badgers along the River Steeping - £313,000 - and multiplied it by 12 to work out the cost of setts across the area.

However, the EA has said that the extrapolated cost quoted at £3.5m for fixing the badger setts would be ‘inaccurate’.

In a statement to The Standard, it says that the £313,000 figure includes not only the cost of construction of the artificial sett but also accounts for strengthening it and protective meshing of adjacent banks to minimise the risk of further badger activity there - something which isn’t needed for every sett.

It also says the damaged sections will also be repaired and protective meshing installed on approximately 400 metres of bank by December.

The statement says that although there are other setts in the area to be dealt with, the EA assesses each one individually to determine the best course of action – and that it does not anticipate a need to build artificial setts for all of them.

It adds that the authority is ‘working to repair the banks and deal with the badgers within the parameter of the law’.

Monitoring of badger activity around the artificial sett shows the critters are using it.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Our priority is to reduce flood risk to people and homes, and we continue to survey and monitor the condition of our flood defences including the impact from badgers.

“We abide by laws protecting badgers and their setts and will continue to work hard to repair and strengthen the banks where this is needed and prevent any further damage. Weather permitting, this work will be completed by the end of the year.”

At the meeting, Coun Pain used the figures as part of a call for a badger cull to deal with the amount of damage being done along the river in Wainfleet.

According to Coun Pain, the government issues culling licences where there is a risk of tuberculosis but not to protect infrastructure from flood risk.

The call came along with concerns about flooding by Skegness Town Coun John Byford who said he was horrified to see Skegness listed in the top 10 places at risk of getting flooded.

Following the EA’s comments, Mr Pain said he stood by his claim that too much of taxpayers’ money was being spent on the works, and added that the cost rose even further when taking into account the money spent on past works.

He also said that any further natural setts which the badgers create could also ramp up the costs.

The matter is being referred to the Direction and Strategy committee for further discussion.

The Environment Agency aims to complete repairs and preventative work by the end of this year, weather permitting