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De­bate con­tin­ues to de­velop as RSPB takes ‘stronger line’ and MPs dis­cuss pe­ti­tion.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

MPs dis­cuss a pe­ti­tion ques­tion­ing the le­gal­ity of hedgerow net­ting

Con­ser­va­tion­ists, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants and the au­thor­i­ties have con­demned the ap­par­ent surge this year in the use of net­ting to stop birds from nest­ing prior to a site be­ing de­vel­oped.

In some cases, nets have been placed over trees and hedges even where plan­ning per­mis­sion has not been granted.

The hous­ing sec­re­tary, James Bro­ken­shire, warned de­vel­op­ers the Gov­ern­ment had not ruled out tak­ing ac­tion, while Nat­u­ral Eng­land said any com­pany or or­gan­i­sa­tion that used net­ting had to make sure it was suit­able and prop­erly main­tained, to en­sure they com­mit­ted no of­fences.

While the RSPB also came out strongly against the use of nets, and sup­ported a pe­ti­tion that would make it il­le­gal, it was crit­i­cised for not ar­tic­u­lat­ing com­plete op­po­si­tion to the prac­tice. En­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tant Do­minic Wood­field, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Bioscan, says he takes is­sue with the ini­tial po­si­tion of the RSPB and the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment, which re­ferred to the prac­tice of net­ting as le­gal. He ar­gues that le­gal­ity comes into ques­tion the minute any bird is trapped or pre­vented from com­plet­ing a nest it has started. “If you are net­ting 3km of hedgerow, there is a high like­li­hood you are go­ing to trap and kill birds,” he says.

Nets should be checked ev­ery 15–20 min­utes, Wood­field ar­gues, in line with how of­ten bird ringers check mist nets.

Asked about its stance on the le­gal­ity of net­ting, the RSPB told BBC Wildlife, “We are tak­ing a much stronger line and are in dis­cus­sion with min­is­ters and the House Builders Fed­er­a­tion.”

The House Builders Fed­er­a­tion con­firmed it is en­gag­ing with the RSPB to in­crease pro­tec­tion for wildlife “while en­sur­ing des­per­ately needed homes are built with­out de­lay.” James Fair

There are cur­rently no laws to pre­vent the in­stal­la­tion of nets to stop birds, such as robins ( be­low) nest­ing in the first place.

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