Hedgehog highways to be included in new housing developments

In a victory for hedgehog conservation, new planning laws require small holes be included in the base of fences in new developments, creating ‘highways’ that enable hedgehogs to roam freely.

A hedgehog in Chelmsford, Essex, UK

An online petition provided a platform for garnering support for the hedgehog highways cause, receiving over 583,000 signatures from the British public, who are clearly keen to see an improvement in the state of the country’s hedgehog population.

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Hedgehog numbers have seen a sharp decline due, in large part, to habitat loss. Research funded by Hedgehog Street — a collaborative project between British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species — revealed that hedgehogs need large areas of uninterrupted land in order to thrive.

Yet modern housing developments, with their often-impenetrable fences, interrupt the movement of hedgehogs, impacting the health of their populations.

To turn this around, BHPS spokesperson Hugh Warwick created the petition on change.org. Following the huge support for the petition, Hugh met with Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP to ask him to add a condition to planning guidelines that require hedgehog highways be included in new developments.

“The fact that we have got the Government to change planning law is a great victory for hedgehogs and also for the wildlife-loving public, who put their considerable political muscle behind this campaign,” said Warwick.

Hedgehog receiving supplementary water in a garden
Hedgehogs can benefit from supplementary food and drink, especially during periods of drought. When providing sustenance, give hedgehog food, complete cat biscuits, or meaty cat and dog food. © Les Stocker/Getty

The new guidelines aim to ensure house builders consider the long-term impact of their developments on local ecosystems.

The announcement ensures that small holes of 13cm² will be included in the base of fences of new-builds, nationwide. Fence manufacturers have already made them available to the public for new fencing projects, or to retro fit into boundaries for existing fencing.

“We have been campaigning to protect hedgehogs for 37 years now and this is one of the most significant breakthroughs we have had.” Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, commented.

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“Hedgehog numbers are declining dramatically — and house building is set to increase dramatically. This announcement will ensure that new developments, rather than further damage vulnerable hedgehog populations, may actually encourage them to flourish.”