Guildford developers netting trees 'to prevent birds nesting'

Netted trees in Guildford
Image caption A wildlife charity says the netting will stop birds nesting so the trees can be removed

A move to put nets over trees on a derelict site in order to develop it was "wicked" and endangers wildlife.

The 11 trees were covered in Guildford to stop birds from nesting enabling them to be cut down, a charity claims.

A council leader said the move was "unacceptable" and author Philip Pullman branded them "ugly" on Twitter.

Developer Sladen Estates, which aims to build 191 homes on the site, has not explained why it has put them in place but said it took advice on their use.

"We understand the strength of reaction to the netting of trees at Walnut Tree Park, Guildford but want to reassure everyone that we have taken the correct advice," it said.

But Simon Cowell, from Leatherhead-based Wildlife Aid, said the process "is incredibly dangerous, even on the outside, with animals able to get their feet stuck".

"I presume it is so they can build without disturbing nesting birds, which is illegal," he added.

Author Philip Pullman has described the netting as "ugly and wicked and destructive".

Image caption Developer Sladen Estates says it has done nothing illegal in covering up the trees
Image caption Guildford Borough Council says the nets have simply highlighted the potential plight the trees face

Paul Spooner, the leader of Guildford Borough Council, said the site did not have "active planning permission".

"Netting those trees to avoid any potential disruption to a developer I thought was unacceptable," he said

"This was not a particularly clever move by the developer as it has just highlighted to everyone involved in the decision-making process the potential plight of those trees."

An RSPB spokesman said: "We would ask that developers do this tree and hedge removal work outside the breeding season so that netting is never needed.

"However it is legal, so if absolutely necessary, it's crucial that it be done properly to minimise the risks to wildlife."

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