Housebuilders wrap bushes in netting to stop birds nesting

In the UK it is illegal under wildlife laws to cut down trees and bushes in which birds are nesting. When a developer is planning a development having obtained planning permission (or the application is being assessed) they sometimes wrap small trees and bushes with netting to stop birds nesting in those trees and bushes so that they can be cut down and removed when construction starts. The problem clearly is that you stop birds nesting and you trap those birds that are nesting inside the tree or bush. It is therefore cruel. They are in the words of The Times journalist ‘death traps for wildlife’.

Birds prevented from nesting in hedge covered in netting by Maplevale Developments

Birds prevented from nesting in hedge covered in netting by Maplevale Developments. Video screenshot.

The newspaper reported a recent example when traps appear near the site of a new housing estate being built in Tamworth, Staffordshire. The area is being developed by Maplevale Developments. They are building 141 new houses on the site and they have placed netting where the entrance street will be sited.

Chris Packham the Springwatch presenter called it “outrageous” and “brutal ignorance”. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demanding it fits in with our plans”.

The organisation is taking the matter to the government as, like many others, they are concerned about the continued decline in wildlife in the UK.

They say that the UK has lost over 40 million birds in the past 50 years. They want planners and developers to show far more concern for wildlife and be prevented from taking these sort of steps and also to ensure that developers replace what they take away.

Arthur McKeown who lives near the new estate said: “I just think it is cruel to deprive birds of their natural habitat. When the nets are erected badly they can trap birds and kill them. But on top of that they are garish and unsightly, and I believe they are completely unnecessary. All this to save some businessmen a few quid.”

The managing director of Maplevale, Richard Kirkland, said in defence: “The scheme has got current planning permission but planning permission wasn’t issued at the time, so we have netted the hedges to prevent birds nesting. We were supervised by an ecologist and fully compliant with all the current legislation, planning laws and good practices. We are extremely responsible and whilst it has caused some queries, we have fully complied, and it’s what every other developer does in the country.”

Comment: covering bushes and trees with nets to prevent birds nesting appears to be legal but it is cruel and against wildlife conservation. Therefore, the government needs to introduce new legislation to ban this practice. Richard Kirkland openly admits that what his company is doing happens all over the country, all the time, and therefore this form of wildlife abuse and anti-conservation practice is widespread. All the more reason to take urgent steps to support bird conservation in the UK.