1. ITV Report

Online backlash against hedgerow netting in Malmesbury Wiltshire

Photo: ITV West Country

A housing development near Malmesbury has faced criticism online for using netting over hedgerows and trees to stop birds nesting.

Residents living in Bendy Bow in Oaksey say the netting was put up more than a month ago by developers.

Campaigners shared photos of the netting on social media saying the plastic cover risks trapping birds and other wildlife.

Credit: Nesting Not Netting, Facebook

It follows a national online petition with more than 337,600 signatures urging developers to stop the practise.

It's not illegal to fit netting to hedgerows before building work. The government responded to the campaign saying they had written to developers reminding them of their "legal obligations" to safeguard local wildlife and only use netting where it's genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust says they've spent years campaigning to protect wildlife during developments.

Netting of hedges prior to a site being developed for buildings can lead to birds becoming trapped or tangled up. After years of campaigning by organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, it is now illegal to knowingly disturb nesting birds even if you have planning permission to remove a hedge.

The Wildlife Trusts work across the UK to influence planning laws and actual developments, seeking to minimise damage to wildlife and maximise the creation of new habitats. As part of this we always suggest that existing habitats such as hedges be kept wherever possible, and are woven into new developments. We hope this will become standard practice as new building rules to deliver gains for wildlife come into effect.

– Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
Credit: ITV West Country
Credit: ITV West Country

Developers GreenSquare Group say they used the netting to encourage birds to nest elsewhere before demolition work began but have decided to remove the netting following the online backlash.

We had used netting in this location only to encourage birds to nest elsewhere, ensuring that they were protected from disturbance during planned demolition and construction works.

However, because our schedule has altered, we have decided that site work can be delayed until after the end of the bird nesting season and the netting will be removed early next week.

We are aware of the current national debate about the environmental impact of netting and will continue to work closely with our ecological consultants to ensure we observe all necessary environmental legislative requirements.

– Jo Curson, Head of Development at GreenSquare