Rare water voles could delay a project to upgrade a major gas main at Ramsey - with a crucial deadline just days away.
Huntingdonshire District Council is being urged to make a swift response to a planning application so supplier Cadent Gas Ltd can confirm its strategy for dealing with the animals in order for work to get under way before the end of 2020.
A special licence has to be in place for work to take place which could disturb protected voles and their habitat and the creatures have been spotted at the waterway at the junction of Chapel Road and Ugg Mere Court Road, Ramsey Heights, where Cadent wants to improve its pipeline.
The firm, which has 11 million customers, wants to insert a 900mm pipe through existing culverting, reinforce the structure and put piling in at the Catch Water watercourse - which would affect vole populations.
Fisher German, which is acting for Cadent, said in the planning document: "As part of the proposed works, water vole mitigation is required. A licence has been sought from Natural England but cannot be issued until planning permission has been granted.
"The appropriate season for carrying out the proposed water vole mitigation works is from February 15, 2020. We are therefore looking to obtain planning permission in advance to enable the Natural England licence to be finalised and works started on site this season."
The firm said: "It is recognised that there is a compulsory 21-day consultation period as part of the application process, but your cooperation in ensuring prompt responses from consultees and determining the application ahead of the eight-week target determination date, will be greatly appreciated to enable the proposed works to proceed this year."
Research has shown that between three and eight water voles could be in the area at the time the work is planned and that one or two of their territories could be affected.
Methods of tackling the problem include trapping voles which are at risk and releasing them when it is safe to do so.
Fisher German said: "The existing gas main runs alongside Ugg Mere Court Road. There is section of gas main that is exposed, presenting a risk of damage, particularly by vehicles travelling too fast."