£500,000 to protect badgers from trams
PROTECTING badgers on the routes of Edinburgh's trams by creating a series of safe "runs" could cost more than £500,000.
A network of bridges, tunnels and fencing will be built to stop the animals wandering across tram lines and getting killed.
The huge bill means that each one of around 35 badgers thought to be under threat from the trams will cost 15,000 to safeguard.
Councillors today said the price tag was "rather expensive", but conceded the measures were necessary as badgers are a legally protected species.
Four families of badgers live in the direct path of the city's proposed tram network - near Edinburgh Airport and along the Roseburn Urban Wildlife Corridor.
Huge chunks of the two routes planned by the council's arms-length company, TIE, have been shelved, with the stretch of line through Roseburn only affordable if costs are cut. But even without this it will cost 208,000 to protect the airport badgers.
Safeguarding the remaining two "clans" in Roseburn would require a further 332,000.
Council leader Donald Anderson said the extensive measures meant Edinburgh would have "the best provided-for badgers in the country". But wildlife campaigners said a simpler solution would be to build tram lines away from the setts.
Tricia Alderson, area co-ordinator for the Edinburgh and Lothians Badger Group, added: "It is TIE's choice to put the trams through the Roseburn corridor, and it isn't a necessity. They have not properly investigated putting the lines on roads."
The facilities being created for badgers are understood to be the first of their kind in the country.
New figures released to the Evening News under Freedom of Information laws reveal that 320,000 will be spent on 11,000 metres of badger fencing along both tram lines.
Badger bridges will be created with two special walkways - one for pedestrians and cyclists and a much smaller one for wildlife - costing around 3500.
A massive network of tunnels will also be built, with a price tag of around 40,000.
During the construction phase of the tram network, the animals will be temporarily rehoused at a cost of 20,000, while there will be an 85,000 bill for wildlife experts to monitor workers and badgers.
SNP councillor Steve Cardownie said: "This appears to be quite expensive, and we could probably relocate the badgers and put them in a penthouse in Leith for a quarter of the price. Nevertheless, the law has to be complied with."
Pilton Labour councillor Billy Fitzpatrick added: "I think this is a bit over the top, but I don't want to see wildlife killed, so the money has to be spent."
Councillor Lawrence Marshall said: "Spending this cash is something we have to do, but the Roseburn corridor was never created for badgers or cyclists - it was created for transport use."
Iain Rennick, Scottish Natural Heritage's area manager for the Forth and Borders, said: "The developer's solutions will protect badgers and people and we hope they will be money well spent."
A spokeswoman for TIE said that the firm has worked closely with the relevant bodies to meet all legal requirements in the development.
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