BADGERS could be culled in Cheshire to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

Natural England, which advises the Government on the country's natural environment, has received an expression of interest in a badger culling licence in the county.

Members of the public have until March 16 to comment on the application and make representations about the impact of a cull.

A spokesman for Natural England said: "Natural England has a statutory role in supporting the Government’s bTB eradication strategy through the issuing and administering of licences to cull and vaccinate badgers.

"As part of that process, in areas where a badger cull licence may be issued, it is the policy for members of the public to be given the opportunity to raise any concerns about how they might be directly affected by the activities carried out under that licence."

The organisation has received 29 applications or expressions of interest for new badger control licences in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Worcestershire, covering areas ranging from 135 sq km to 650 sq km.

Charlotte Harris, chief executive of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: "Cheshire Wildlife Trusts is opposed to the culling of badgers and we're extremely concerned to learn an application for Cheshire has been submitted to Natural England for the first time.

"The culls to-date have been found to be repeatedly flawed in their methodology, measures and objectives – they missed their targets, were expensive and their impact on the TB problem, if any, is uncertain."

"We believe that controlling the spread of the devastating disease bTB in cattle requires implementation of a package of measures and we advocate alternatives to badger culling – we're one of a number of local organisations, including Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group and Chester Zoo, that have been carrying out a badger vaccination programmes in Cheshire.

"We are sympathetic to the farmers whose cattle are affected by this devastating disease, but we urge the Government to consider the scientific evidence which indicates that the cull will not significantly reduce bTB in cattle."

Jane Cullen, chairman of Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group, said vaccination programmes started on Adlington Hall Estate in 2014, and added that new cases of bTB in Cheshire reduced by 21 per cent in the area last year.

"We are obviously opposed to culling," she said.

"The reduction of incidents of bovine TB is 21 per cent and that's nothing to do with culling badgers,"

"We are very proud of what we have achieved with the vaccination programme and don't want a cull to undermine that in any way shape or form."

To comment on the application click here.