The sandpit in the children’s play area at Happy Valley has been fenced off due to badgers causing safety concerns. Badgers have excavated a sleeping chamber under the sandpit with the entrance to the sett now visible at ground level. Crewkerne Town Council have applied for a licence from Natural England and are looking to prevent the badgers from returning to the sett when they have left it to forage for food, by installing a one-way gate system.
The situation is being exasperated by an individual who is continuing to feed the badgers. While this is not illegal, the town council is hoping that the person will stop, when they realise the significant amount of money that the council will need to spend to address the problem which will come out of its open space budget. The licence will allow the council who are being guided by an environmental expert to encourage the badgers to move out of the sett. The area around the sandpit would then need to be monitored for at least 21 days or longer if an increase in badger activity is recorded.
Crewkerne Town Council said: “We cannot fill the hole as that is tampering with a badger sett and illegal. We are taking advice as to the best course of action and we hope that we can open this area to children again soon.” Natural England have advised that the sett needs to be closed down before the end of October, so as not to affect the badger’s hibernation period. There are three options to prevent badgers from returning; removing the sand and laying down a different surface, putting a badger proof mesh under the sandpit or erecting badger proof fencing around the sandpit.
Discussing the badger problem at Monday’s meeting of the full town council, councillor Angie Singleton voiced concerns that it was going to be “very expensive, is it going to be successful? The money could be spent on more play equipment.” The councillor was advised by deputy town clerk Laura Gowers that the badgers would probably excavate under other play equipment as they seemed to prefer a sandy soil and the matter needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, taking into consideration preventative measures for the long term.
Councillor Angie Singleton remarked that Ilminster Town Council had successfully removed badgers from the bowling green and Tesco area of the town and contained them in one area. She wondered how they had managed to deal with the badger problem. Town councillors agreed to go ahead with the short term measures at Happy Valley playground and are considering a Wildlife Management Plan for the area which would involve St Bartholomew’s School, residents and other interested parties. There is also possibility for council staff training in wildlife strategy and the potential of applying for a long term licence for the site.