Motorists ignore warning signs after badger family set up camp under Somersham road
A group of residents in Somersham are badgering the council to step up after a sett of unexpected guests shacked up underneath their road.
Flowton Road was closed this week after a family of badgers burrowed beneath the tarmac, tossing piles of sand into the undergrowth and causing the road to partially collapse.
Now residents are concerned that motorists are knocking down the road closure signs and driving through, putting both themselves and the animals at risk.
James Caston, a local farmer and chair of Somersham Parish Council, said he had seen people blatantly ignoring the signage.
“I live down the end of the road and I can see people using the road quite a lot,” he said.
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“I can’t tell if there are people who are using it for access or they are just slipping through. Obviously people should not be driving down there. If a road is closed, it is closed for the public safety.”
Mr Caston said at first he thought somebody had dumped bags of sand into the undergrowth running by the road. However it soon became apparent that they were smaller hands (or paws) at work.
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Once it was reported that articulated lorries were struggling to get by, the road was shut within a day.
Mr Caston added: “The badgers have been around there for a while because they have been into people’s gardens.
“Gradually, the road started to sink. Just before it shut, it got a lot worse.
“They came and looked at it and it was pretty obvious that something serious was going on.”
Mr Caston said that the road closure has also meant that lorries transporting fertiliser, wheat and oats cannot make their deliveries to his farm – putting a strain on his business.
“I am having to go all the way round the village every time I want to put fertiliser down,” he said.
“I hope that the highways team will find a solution so the badgers are safe and we can use the road again.”
Terry and Gill Fordham, who own the land in question, added that they were concerned a nearby elderly resident was cut off to the village due to the closure.
Badgers are a protected species, which means that the council cannot repair the road until it has permission from Natural England, a government-sponsored organisation responsible for conservation.
A Spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “On Thursday, March 15, Suffolk Highways installed an emergency road closure on Flowton Road in Somersham following reports of the road sinking due to animal activity. Suffolk County Council’s Ecology Team has since observed evidence of a live badger sett at this location.
“As badgers are a protected species Suffolk Highways has a legal obligation to seek a license from Natural England to undertake road repairs in the vicinity of badgers. To ensure that badgers are not disturbed during their breeding season Natural England usually only issue licences between 1 July and 30 November.
“Suffolk Highways are now liaising with Natural England to plan the necessary repair works, which are likely to be undertaken during the summer. It will therefore be necessary to keep this emergency road closure in place until we are able to carry out these repair works.”
A Natural England spokesperson said: “We are working closely with Suffolk County Council to ensure the badgers are protected and the necessary repairs are made to the road as soon as possible.
“Once we receive an application we will assess the situation and ensure that work is carried out in a sensitive manner causing minimal disturbance to the badgers and the local community.”
Last April, a similar scenario threatened filming for Benedict Cumberbatch’s BBC drama The Child in Time when a badger sett was blamed for causing a sink hole on the only road in and out of Shingle Street.