Badgers and their nesting burrows (or ‘setts’) are fully protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and are frequently encountered during development projects.
Protection under the Act applies both to the animal itself, which may not be killed, injured or captured, and its setts, which may not be destroyed, damaged or disturbed except under certain specified andor licensed conditions. Current interpretation of the Act also confers a degree of protection to areas which are of key significance to foraging badgers.
Legal protection is extended to badgers primarily on welfare rather than conservation grounds, the species being subject to frequent persecution and cruel abuse. It remains a comparatively widespread and common species throughout the UK, however, and is increasing in numbers in many areas.
In England and Wales, a licence is usually required either from Natural England or the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) in order to carry out any earthmoving, construction and development activities within about 30m of a badger sett. Activities likely to cause disturbance or harm to badgers must be subject to detailed mitigation and protection measures, which may include the ‘eviction’ of occupied setts and the resettlement of badgers at a new site, the construction of ‘badger tunnels’ under new roads, installation of badger-proof fences or the construction of artificial badger setts.