Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Badgers 'threaten flood defences'

Locals have pointed the finger at badgers for damaging flood defences along a stretch of the River Yeo in Somerset
Locals have pointed the finger at badgers for damaging flood defences along a stretch of the River Yeo in Somerset

Badgers are being blamed for putting a village at risk by digging through its flood defences.

Parish leaders in Congresbury, North Somerset, are calling on the Environment Agency to stop the badgers from burrowing in the riverside defences, which they say are consequently leaking water.

Despite a concrete bank and a piece of metal sheeting that stretches 60 metres along the banks of the River Yeo, the council said they believe the animals have found a way around these and are continuing to burrow there.

Local residents said the problem became more noticeable during the recent bad weather and that gaps have started to appear near the Millennium Bridge. But the Environment Agency - which is responsible for the flood defences - said it has no current concerns that badger activity is affecting them.

Parish councillor Ken Hill told the Bristol Post: "Obviously we are concerned that if this (burrowing) is allowed to continue, it could weaken the riverbanks and the flood defences. We have had very high water levels recently and the flood defences have been very successful in protecting homes and businesses in the village. We want them to stay that way."

The River Yeo has flooded on a number of occasions and during 2012 the river reached some of its highest levels ever. A badger sett had to be removed during the building of the Millennium Bridge 15 years ago, with the animals moved back after it was completed.

Environment Agency spokesman Paul Gainey said there had been a problem with badgers burrowing last year, but measures had been put in place to stop it.

"The decision was taken we would not move the sett, as they will just come back, so we needed to stop them weakening the bank," he said. "What was happening was the badgers behind the flood defence were burrowing and weakening the flood bank, so we put in a concrete bank, but they burrowed under that. We then put in some interlocking metal sheeting, and we think that has solved the problem.

"There has been some discussion whether this is still a problem and we've done examinations of the flood bank - and because of the recent heavy rainfall we had in November, we're investigating whether the bank has been displaced by that - but we are not aware the badger problem has struck again."

He added the Environment Agency would continue to monitor the situation.

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