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