Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 13:09 UK

Badgers moved out for roadworks

The badger sett in Cumnor Hill is believed to be 100-years-old

A conservation group has criticised the decision to permanently close a 100-year-old badger sett in order to repair a road in Oxford.

Cumnor Hill is closed so steel piles can be installed to reinforce the carriageway and pavement.

Oxfordshire County Council said the work, which will take 12 weeks and cost £600,000, was needed in order to make the road safe.

But critics warned other setts in the area were also under threat.

Investigations carried out by the council in 2007 revealed a network of badger tunnels had damaged a section of both the pavement and carriageway on the road between Botley and Cumnor.

Repair work was due to start in January but had to be delayed until August after the badgers moved back in.

The poor badgers are very beleaguered at the moment
Julia Hammette, Oxfordshire Badger Group

Badger setts are protected by law, but Natural England granted the council a licence to exclude the badgers by not allowing them to re-enter their setts or the ground immediately surrounding the works.

Senior engineer Andrew Johnson said: "After exploring a number of options with Natural England and local residents, a consensus emerged in favour of excluding the badgers."

But the Oxfordshire Badger Group said it was unfair to blame the road damage entirely on the badger sett.

The group said an increase in road usage due to new homes being built in the area, the geology of Cumnor Hill and the services underneath the road were also partly to blame.

Spokeswoman Julia Hammett said: "It was a pity there was no mitigation.

"If it's a matter of road safety, the authorities aren't liable to put in an artificial sett.

"There are outlying setts in Cumnor but those are also under threat of proposed developments of gardens so the poor badgers are very beleaguered at the moment."

Cumnor Hill will remain closed for another two weeks between the junctions with Delamare Way and Dean Court Road.

The council said the road would then be partially reopened and temporary traffic signals would be put in place until the end of October.

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