SOUTH Lakes environmental groups have raised concerns about provisions for wildlife in the Agriculture Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

They have spoken of the need for government assurances that protected wildlife species would be covered by British law once it leaves the European Union (EU) at the end of this year.

Although the bill includes incentives for farmers, conservation groups have highlighted ‘gaps’ in the future legislation for wildlife protections.

One of the main species conservationists have highlighted has been hedgehogs, which would be at risk if regulations on hedgerow-cutting during certain times of the year were to be shed.

David Harpley, Conservation Manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “South Lakeland has fantastic hedges and is a hedgehog hot spot, with lots of local people recording sightings on our online survey.

“The hawthorn and sloe that grow in our hedges provide vital early nectar sources, so it would be a great shame if they’re cut in spring or summer.

“Cumbria still has a good range of wildlife and some very rich habitats...but that doesn’t mean we’ve escaped the decline of species.

“The State of Nature 2019 report 41% of UK species have declined since 1970 – so it’s vital that the Government ensures that the same level of legislative protection is given to wildlife as before we left the EU.”

MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, has also said the translation of EU wildlife protections into British law post-exit is ‘vital.’

Mr Farron said: “We’re very lucky to have so much amazing wildlife here in the South Lakes.

“So it simply doesn’t make sense for the Government to put it at risk by choosing not to carry over the environmental protections, that we enjoyed in the EU, into British law.

“As the Agriculture Bill makes its way through Parliament, we will fight to get these vital protections put into law.”