Use of netting on trees, bushes and hedgerows to prevent nesting birds

Gemma Hogg

Monday 25 March 2019

Tree net in Guildford

The RSPB is concerned by the recent reports of widespread use of netting on trees, hedges and bushes to prevent birds nesting – and we know you are too.

We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demanding it fits in with our plans. People around the country are dismayed to hear about cases where birds returning from long journeys are being deliberately excluded from sites where they might choose to raise their young. Those people want action, and so do we.

That’s why the RSPB is campaigning for laws to be introduced that would commit governments to ensure the recovery of nature – meaning that practices like this would come under much closer scrutiny in future. We all need nature in our lives – which means giving birds and other wildlife, more, not less room to breed, feed and sing.

In the short term, though, we need to act to make sure that we are not making things more difficult now, for wildlife that is already struggling with climate change, habitat loss and development pressure. That’s why we think the petition on the Government’s website is a welcome move, and we are encouraging people to sign it. For people living in Wales, you can ask the Welsh Assembly to consider a ban too, please support this call to action.

Obviously careful consideration will be needed to develop rules around netting that really help birds, and allow legitimate activity to continue. But we cannot stand by and let the current practices spread unchallenged.

If work is absolutely necessary, then the use of netting could be avoided by tree and hedge removal being completed outside of nesting season; 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. We encourage the government to review the current law governing this area, and think creatively about what could be done to solve a problem that is upsetting so many people, and pushing nature away from our lives.

While the practice of netting is legal, the RSPB would like planners and housing developers to take some important points into consideration. We are also sending more detailed, technical guidance to all housebuilders so they can follow this best practice and contact us for any advice:

  • Think about whether it is really necessary to remove the hedges and trees that are vital for supporting our wildlife;
  • Netting should not be the easy alternative. If the work is absolutely necessary, then the use of netting could be avoided by tree and hedge removal being completed outside of nesting season (September – February);
  • And, this should be backed up by a commitment to plant new trees and hedges - no one wants to live in a neighbourhood where the sights and sounds of nature have been driven out;
  • It is essential developers work with a trained ecologist to ensure appropriate netting is used and is not the type that will catch and hold birds and other wildlife;
  • It is also essential that a trained ecologist ensures the correct netting is fitted in a way that wildlife cannot get through or behind the netting and then become trapped;
  • It is essential that netting is checked at least once a day (but ideally three times) by a trained ecologist to ensure that no wildlife is caught or that the netting has become defective. If any wildlife is seen to be caught within or trapped behind netting they must be freed immediately and the netting fixed or removed;
  • If anyone perceives that the user is aware that wildlife is being caught but has not remedied the situation, then the Police Wildlife Crime Officer should be informed.

If you have any further concerns or believe nets are being put up without the right consents, then we recommend you get in touch with your local council, MP and the housebuilder concerned and tell them how you feel. Learn more about how to become a campaign champion with us.

Image credit (tree net in Guildford) Melissa Harrison.

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: The RSPB's positions