The Neath Port Talbot Badger Group

Protecting Our Local Badgers

SHAME ON NEATH PORT TALBOT COUNCIL

 

The Background:
On April of last year (2011) the badger group discovered that a large and active badger sett situated in a Neath woodland had been severely damaged, caused as a result of tree felling and clearing work.   Sett entrances had been obstructed with debris, and one in particular had been substantially damaged by heavy machinery.  The damaged suggested that the sett interior had collapsed under the weight, possibly killing badgers that occupied that area underground (see example photographs at bottom of this page). 
 
The local police were immediately informed, but showed little interest, but after several phone calls and complaints by us, they were forced to act - in fact, action only started after we told them that we would be informing the local press of the incident.   
 
It transpired that the local authority (Neath Port Talbot Council) was responsible for the work, and the operations manager of the work actually admitted to the Chairman of the badger group that the sett at the location had been damaged. The badger group was told by the manager that some of the work was carried out by council employees, and the heavier work carried out by a hired contractor.  
 
What made this incident particularly worrying is the fact that the badger group had previously made the council aware that a badger sett existed at the location.  Indeed, a ranger from the local authority itself used to make checks on the sett.  Basically then, the council were aware that a sett was at the location where the work was being carried out.
 
The RSPCA was also informed of the damage, and investigated the matter (on the behalf of the local police). The RSPCA arranged for an expert witness to examine the scene and to provide his opinion, which subsequently was that the sett had been damaged and that it was active, which supported both the RSPCA's and badger group's findings.  So, under 'The Protection of Badgers Act 1992' it was deemed that the damage was unlawlful.  Not only unlawful,  but also no licence had been obtained to permit such work to be undertaken near the sett - which is required by law.
 
It was the RSPCA's opinion also that part of the sett had collapsed where heavy machinery had been operating, and we assisted them to manually excavate the area to identify the full extent of the collapse, and to determine if any badger(s) had died underground as a result.  Unfortunately though, the damage and depth of the sett was such that we were unable to excavate the damaged area fully.  Fearing of causing more damage/collapse to the sett structure the excavation was halted, infilled and made good.
 
The badger group did inform the local press (Evening Post) of the incident, and a reporter/photographer visited the scene. The 'story' text was provided by the badger group, which included the fact that the work had been carried out by the local council - which they didn't deny.  However, when the story was printed the newspaper omitted that fact.  The story text provided by the badger group basically explained that a sett had been damaged during council operations - no statement was made that directly accused the council of being responsible for the damage.   When the badger group commented on this omission via the newspaper's online facility, someone seemingly complained that the council had been implicated.  Subsequently, the online comments were removed by the newspaper.   Who was it that complained? - it's fairly obvious to us, but we'll leave it for you to come to your own conclusion.
 
Some time later, relevant badger group members made statements to the RSPCA verifying the fact that the group had informed the council that the sett existed at the location and was active.   The group also provided records and documents to support those facts.
 
As far as the badger group and RSPCA were concerned the local council was in direct contravention of the badger act...

The evidence... 
 
The council was responsible for the work that had been carried out - no question
  • The council admitted to the group that the work had caused damage to the sett
  • The RSPCA agreed the sett had been unlawfully damaged, which might have injured or killed badger(s) within the collapsed sett
  • An expert witness deemed the sett as being active at the time it was damaged, supported by physical evidence found at the scene (and hence was afforded full protection under the law)
  • The badger groups' own records and member accounts indicated that the sett was continually active, and had been for over many years
  • No licence to work near the badger sett was obtained by the council (required by law) - which would not have been issued in any case (by the issuing governmental authority - CCW) as the work was carried out in the 'protected' badger breeding season (December-June)
 
The overwhelming evidence was presented to the South Wales police (Neath local station) for instigating a prosecution of the council
 
Outcome...

To date of writing (20-05-2015) the Council has not been prosecuted, due to (as subsequently informed by South Wales police)...  lack of evidence!

String-pulling by the council?  Same string as might have been used with the Evening Post?   We'll let you decide. 

 
If you decide to ask the council about the above incident, consider asking them also....
 
1. The reasons why mitigation measures to protect badgers, included in planning consents/conditions, are often not overseen by the council, and/or not adhered to by the very developers who are supposed to comply to the measures
 
2. Why developers who contravene such mitigation measures are not made accountable by the council, ie. they are allowed to get away with it
 
3. Why the council cannot locate a sensitive list of all local setts provided to them by the badger group.  Several years ago the council (environment dept) requested this information from the group.  The list included map references of all sett locations throughout the borough.  The purpose of the list was to help the council identify if any badger setts may be affected in new planning applications.  The information was provided by the badger group on the strict assurance that the information would be kept safe.   The location of the damaged sett mentioned above was also on that list.  On recently enquiring to the council of the list, the badger group received the following reply:
"To reiterate previous comments on the alleged lost data please note that current staff are unaware of any data being given to the unit and we are unable to comment as to whether staff that have left the employment of the council did have receipt of such data".
The badger group's thoughts...  two possibilities...  they've either lost the list, or have misplaced it.
 
4.  Why the badger 'section' of the local biodiversity action plan (LBAP 2008 - 2012) states that the local badger population has remained level over the last 10 years, whereas in the badger group's actual opinion the population is still in decline - as was stated in the initial LBAP (badgers) written by the badger group.  The badger group has approached the council to enquire of the source of this 'misleading' information, as it did not come from the group as claimed in the account.   We have received a reply, but the council will not inform us of the source, nor the qualification of the source, nor of the data source it was derived from.
 
The actual statement in the LBAP document reads...
 
'Local information gathered by the NPT [Neath Port Talbot] Badger Group suggests that over the last 10 years the badger population has remained at the same level, although this data is based on observation of setts not individual animals'
 
The LBAP document can be accessed online at:
 
 
The relevant section on local badgers can be found on page 78 of the document.  The misleading (and unsourced) statement is in the middle of the centre column.
 
 

 
 
Some Photographs of the Damaged Sett in Neath
 
Note heavy machinery track marks over the active sett, entrances obstructed, trees felled next
to entrances, badger paths destroyed - all reckless, all illegal, all carried out in the restricted breeding
season, without a licence, under the direction/management of Neath Port Talbot Council.
A Lack of Evidence?