Governnment responds to 'netting outrage' - "Developers must fulfill obligations to safeguard local wildlife"

The government has issued a warning to developers who fail to uphold their obligations to local wildlife
The government has issued a warning to developers who fail to uphold their obligations to local wildlife

Public outrage from HS2 contractors and developers 'netting' trees and hedgerows has prompted a robust government response.

You can read our initial story on 'netting' here:
In response to a government petition which amassed 317,000 signatories the government have hit out at developers, reminding them of 'their legal obligation to consider the impact netting has on local wildlife and habitats.

The RSPB have been leading the fight against 'netting' saying it presents a real and present danger to local wildlife, which is declining at 'an alarming rate'

They said:

"In the UK we have lost over 40 million birds in the last 50 years. So we are looking to the Government to not just ask planners and developers to think about whether it is necessary to remove the trees and hedgerows that are vital for supporting our wildlife, but to ensure that developers replace what they take away.

“If the work is absolutely necessary, then the use of netting could be avoided by tree and hedge removal being completed outside of the nesting season. And, if it is used it is important to remember there are responsibilities to do it properly.

"This means checking for birds and other animals when the netting is fitted, and then ongoing regular checks, as wildlife often finds a way to get under the edge of a net and then get stuck. And, this should be backed up by a commitment to plant new trees and hedges as no one wants to live in a neighbourhood where the sights and sounds of nature have been driven out.”

The government statement implies that 'netting' could be in contravention of the Animal Welfare act 2006.

The statement, issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, reads:

"Developers must fulfil their obligation to safeguard local wildlife and habitats. Netting trees and hedgerows is only appropriate where genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.

"On 8 April, we wrote to developers to remind them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of any project on local wildlife and, where necessary, to take precautionary action to protect their habitats. Developments should enhance natural environments, not destroy them. It is vital that developers take these words on board and play their full role to make sure we can deliver new communities in an environmentally sustainable way.

"Wild birds are protected by provisions in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering to a bird by an act, or a failure to act, where the person concerned knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would or be likely to cause unnecessary suffering."

There has been widespread outrage recently as North Norfolk Council put up nets up at Bacton, to stop sand martins nesting in the cliff face.

The RSPB said it was pleased some of the netting been removed, but more action was needed to help sand martins and it would be meeting the council for discussions this week.

The Government continued:

"Any development project must consider the impact on local wildlife and take precautionary action to protect habitat. Bird netting should be kept to a minimum, and used only to help protect birds during development.

"In accordance with Natural England’s standing advice for local authorities needing to assess planning applications that affect wild birds, survey reports and mitigation plans are required for projects that could affect protected species.

"Our revised National Planning Policy Framework also makes clear that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural environment by minimising the impacts on, and providing net gains for, biodiversity.

"However, we plan to require developers to deliver biodiversity net gain, under new arrangements in the forthcoming Environment Bill. This will mean wildlife habitat must be left in a measurably better state than it was before any development."