Are beavers a dam good idea in Bedford's battle against flooding?

Beavers could become a new weapon in Bedford’s ongoing battle against river flooding.

A meeting yesterday (Monday) heard two of the biggest political big beasts in the borough chew over and react favourably to an idea to introduce the giant semi-aquatic rodents somewhere on the River Great Ouse.

Mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) invited a member of the public present in the meeting to send the council suggestions for potential sites for beaver colonisation.

Resident Jane Morris took advantage of the council’s rules to ask a question at a meeting of the climate change committee.

“In the light of recent flooding events in the borough, notably at Christmas, where various families and houses had to be evacuated, are there any plans to introduce beavers to the River Great Ouse within Bedford borough?”

She gave examples of where beaver colonies have been introduced in other parts of the country, including Cornwall, Devon and Essex, with financial and flooding benefits for those areas.

“I love beavers, Mr mayor,” said Cllr Charles Roydon (Lib Dem, Brickhill) the deputy mayor and portfolio holder for the environment. “I went on a beaver safari when I was in Scotland some years ago and we found a beautiful colony.”

Getting his teeth into the subject he added: “If I could find somewhere in Bedfordshire to do this I’d be really, really pleased.

Floods hit Bedford at Christmas

“The work that they do in terms of changing the habitat, and the diversity, is just amazing. I really would be pleased if we could have something local.”

But he added that although he is “really supportive of the idea” the borough is constrained by having development, and good grade farmland, near the river.

“We’re not quite as open as in Scotland and some of the places you have mentioned,” he added.

Mayor Dave said that as one of the smallest counties in the country, finding suitable places in Bedfordshire are “pretty much impossible to find.”

Beaver colonies need large areas of land, and chop down trees to create dams which themselves flood large areas of land.

He added that no council-owned land suitable for beaver colonies had been identified. But it “remains an aspiration” if the opportunity arises, he said.

The mayor invited anyone who knows of suitable sites to forward them to the council which could investigate the option.