TRANSCO has apologised for disturbing a badgers' sett during gas pipelaying work alongside the Basingstoke Canal.

The company said "sorry" after a top level meeting last Friday to discuss the incident near Deepcut Flight locks.

In a statement it admitted that it should have contacted the West Surrey Badger Group before contractors started the work.

"We will endeavour to ensure that this type of incident does not occur again," added the statement.

"Transco has a first class record of environmental care and genuinely regrets this incident."

The company, however, still faces possible prosecution under the wildlife laws.

Jeff Clark, of West Surrey Badger Group, said: "I am still talking with the police as far as that is concerned."

He added that it might never be known if any badgers had been killed when the sett was disturbed.

"We don't intend to investigate because it would only cause further disturbance to the sett," he added.

Transco, which owns Britain's gas pipe network, resumed its pipelaying work this week after a halt had been called on the instructions of canal ranger Peter Munt. The company, however, has agreed to move the route of the pipeline to stay well clear of the sett.