Row as county council puts up signs instead of moving dirt heap caused by badgers

Badgers cause fresh earth spillage on Station Road

Badgers cause fresh earth spillage on Station Road - Credit: Archant

The badgers have been busy again on Station Road. But instead of removing the fresh heap of earth that appeared, the county highways department put up warning signs instead.

County Highways leaves dirt, installs signs instead

County Highways leaves dirt, installs signs instead - Credit: Archant

That brought an amused response from the Sidmouth town council clerk Christopher Holland, who said: “We’ve now got signs that stick out further than the mud.

“Perhaps it’s time we had signs to warn people about the signs. It’s nonsensical.”

But cabinet member for highways, Councillor Stuart Hughes, hit back. “That’s the most stupid comment I’ve ever heard from someone in a responsible position,” he said. “We have signed it according to the book.”

Cllr Hughes said the county council had also contacted the landowners to inform them that it was their responsibility to remove the dirt and get a badger survey carried out.

Signs installed to warn people about the dirt

Signs installed to warn people about the dirt - Credit: Archant

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“You wouldn’t expect us to cut people’s hedges. This is a similar case,” he added.

The situation has been further aggravated by maintenance work being carried out nearby.

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In April, Devon County Council, which is in charge of roads, sent in a team to clear the earth after the Herald first raised the matter.

Initially, the council said the dirt heap was ‘not a safety risk’.

It then took scientific advice - because badgers are a protected species - before eventually removing the earth.

The heap of dirt had been at the side of the B3176 near the East Devon District Council offices for weeks and many motorists had complained that it was a danger. It is believed that badgers burrowing on land behind the wall are the cause of the problem.

“We cleared it once, but it’s now up to the landowner to take responsibility and arrange for the clear-up. We can’t keep cleaning up somebody else’s mess,” said Cllr Hughes. “We have a responsibility not to waste taxpayers’ money.”

But the owner of the holiday cottage behind is adamant he does not own the land adjacent to the road. He says the land is unclaimed. DCC says Land Registry records say he is the owner.

The council could intervene again and bill the owner.

Cllr Hughes added: “This thing must be tunnelling to France. At this rate we could have a cross-Channel point at Sidmouth.”

Representatives from highways were due to review the matter.

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