Chris Grayling leads attempts to preserve hedgehog numbers

Former government minister and transport secretary Chris Grayling

Former government minister and transport secretary Chris Grayling - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling is attempting to give hedgehogs increased protection to preserve their numbers.

Grayling has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill which would put a legal obligation on developers to search for hedgehogs and take action to reduce the risk to them.

By adding hedgehogs to the list of protected animals under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is hoped this would safeguard their nesting sites.

The amendment is currently supported by 13 Conservative colleagues, including former cabinet ministers Liam Fox and Dame Cheryl Gillan.

A 2018 report by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society revealed a 30% drop in the number of hedgehogs in urban areas since 2000.

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The prickly creatures are protected from harm under the existing Act, which makes it illegal to kill or capture them using certain methods.

But Grayling said his amendment would sort out “proper protection” for them.

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He told the PA news agency: “It seems wrong to me, for example, that whenever a developer has to carry out a wildlife survey before starting work on a project that the hedgehog is not on anyone’s radar.

“It is Britain’s favourite animal. Its numbers are declining.

“And it should be as well protected as any other popular but threatened British animal.

“We worry about whether we are going to damage the habitats of badgers and bats. It’s time we worried about the hedgehog too.

“I hope that this amendment will encourage Defra, the Government department involved, to sort out proper protection for hedgehogs.”

The first day of the Bill’s report stage takes place in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with Grayling expecting his amendment to be debated in future weeks.

The Bill seeks to write environmental principles in UK law for the first time.

It includes setting targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction, and outlining what standard must be achieved and by what date.

Labour has tabled a series of amendments, including one which requires ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law – such as neonicotinoid pesticides – where they are likely to impact bees and other species covered by an environmental improvement plan.But shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard raised concerns over the prospect of the Bill’s progress being delayed by government and it being picked up again in a new parliamentary session.

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