United Kingdom’s Animal Welfare Party (AWP) scored a lasting victory for hedgehogs when AWP councillor Jane Smith’s motion to stipulate hedgehog-friendly boundaries in all new planning applications was passed unanimously by Alsager Town Council in Cheshire. A much needed measure, as Britain’s hedgehog population is in serious decline.
In rural areas, the hedgehog population is most affected due to intensive farming methods which results in less food for the hedgehogs. Worms, slugs, earwigs, millipedes, caterpillars and beetles are falling as the way we farm reduces plant diversity. In urban areas, the biggest problem is the fragmentation of habitat by various fencing and infrastructure – and the change of suburbia from green to grey.
Councillor Smith, who is the AWP’s first-ever representative in local politics as well as the party’s deputy leader, proposed that the town council insist on native hedging for boundaries in all new planning applications, and that failing that, any solid walls or fences must include wildlife tunnels enabling hedgehogs and other small animals to pass from property to property in their search for food, mates and nesting sites. The stipulation will apply to all new applications, from single dwellings through to large housing estates and employment land.
Hedgehog friendly fence
“Wildlife ‘corridors’ are a key feature in any humane and sustainable planning system,” says Smith. “Hedgehog populations in particular have suffered terribly from solid boundaries around gardens, which mean they’re unable to move freely between open spaces, and in the UK we’ve lost an estimated one-third of our hedgehogs in the past decade alone. Insisting on native hedging or wildlife tunnels will help generations of hedgehogs as well as many other wild animals and birds; it’s a small and inexpensive step but with a great impact.
I think this is a good example of how real change can be effected for animals at the most local level of politics. I believe that animals need a voice representing their needs in human decision-making, since so many of our activities affect their habitat and lives. I’m very proud as an AWP councillor to be able to make this huge difference to hedgehogs locally, and I really hope that other councils will follow suit now that we’ve set a precedent.”
Wildlife tunnel in a wall
Since Smith’s motion was passed, a total of 21 other local and city councils have requested information to propose the same initiative in their areas, and Animal Welfare Party has been contacted by over 100 animal charities and campaigners now hoping to lobby their own councils to follow Alsager’s example.