Pressure builds on developers to stop using netting

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Sophie and Kyra pictured earlier this year at the Taylor Wimpey site at Arden Heath Farm, where netting was installed.

Developers in Stratford are coming under renewed pressure to end the practice of installing netting on trees and hedgerows after MPs recommended that the practice should be banned or regulated earlier this month.

Taylor Wimpey and CALA Homes are amongst the developers to experience a backlash over the use of netting in the district, with some sites, such as that at Taylor Wimpey’s Arden Heath Farm development, being highlighted in the national media.

Vigilantes even took matters into their own hands to remove the netting from this site back in April.

Netting has also appeared over hedges in Salford Priors and Loxley, prompting criticism on social media and from Stratford District Councillor Daren Pemberton, portfolio holder for planning, who has pledged to do what he can to prevent developers from using netting.

The practice has been widely condemned by wildlife campaigners who say it can trap wildlife and cause real harm to birds.

Developers on the other hand argue that netting prevents them for disturbing nesting birds at a later date when hedges and trees are removed.

An online petition calling on the use of netting by developers to be made a criminal offence attracted in excess of 350,000 signatures, triggering a debate on the issue in Parliament this week.

After considering the petition MPs agreed that the practice should be banned or regulated.

Despite this, the developers approached by the Herald last week would not say whether they would stop using netting.

While the district council appears uneasy about netting, it does not require planning permission so the authority is very limited in what it can do.

A spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey said: “We understand the concerns raised regarding the practice of hedgerow netting. Preserving and enhancing local wildlife is a key consideration when we plan and build new developments.

“Hedgerows may be netted during bird nesting season to allow any hedgerow trimming or removal work which has been approved during the planning process to be completed by developers without causing harm to nesting birds.

“We only use this practice when necessary following careful consideration on a site-by-site basis, and after putting in place clear and appropriate measures to protect local wildlife from harm. Prior to trimming or removal, hedgerows are inspected by an ecologist to ensure that no wildlife is present.

“We are working closely with ecologists across many of our developments to put in place measures designed to enhance biodiversity, including hedgehog-friendly garden fences, wildflower meadows, and bat and bird boxes.

“We have engaged with communities around sites where hedgerow netting has been used, including our Arden Heath Farm site, and will continue to do so as our developments progress.”

Back in March 13-year-olds Kyra Barboutis and Sophie Smith from the group Hedgehog Friendly Town, negotiated with Taylor Wimpey to install hedgehog tunnels in within the netted hedgerows at Arden Heath Farm, after raising concerns that wild animals could get trapped.

Commenting on the debate in parliament this week, Kyra said: “I think what they are doing to try and stop this devastating issue is brilliant but should’ve been done sooner as not only does the netting effect the birds’ habitat, but many other ground dwelling animals including hedgehogs.

“We are trying to raise awareness with the younger generation so they will grow up understanding and caring more about the environment and biodiversity than a lot of the current generation does. ”

“Some of the developers are at least willing to listen and are making changes but we need more to do the same.”

Sophie added: “Personally I think that the netting should be banned. They should also have more rules when it comes to checking for every type of animal if netting has to be used   and not just making birds a priority. Although they are re-planting new hedges into the areas they are still destroying the hedges that were there before which was home to many animals.

“We have explained to Taylor Wimpey our thoughts and ideas for more environmentally friendly houses and gardens and they have decided to include some of our ideas in their plans. Hopefully through raising awareness we will help the new residents of these houses to do more to make their homes more animal friendly. It would be nice to see all building companies be more wildlife friendly and put into place our ideas especially for hedgehogs.”

Offering his assessment on the netting debate, Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi said: “This matter does not fall within my ministerial portfolio and I was therefore not the Government Minister called to respond to this debate.

“Wild birds are protected in law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This Act makes it a criminal offence to act in a way that a person knows, or ought to have known, will cause suffering to a wild bird. The use of hedgerow netting is therefore already a criminal offence if it is used in a way that causes suffering to wild birds.”

The Herald approached developer CALA Homes and house builder Kendrick Homes, both of whom have installed netting on hedges in the district, but neither would provide comment on the issue.