We cannot evict birds with netting, say MPs
The practice of putting nets over trees and hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting should stop or at least be regulated, MPs have said.
Labour MP Diana Johnson said "netting" puts "fragile life systems at risk" and "we must look very seriously at ending the practice."
Tory Bill Grant added: "We cannot evict the birds, we have to embrace them."
MPs are debating a petition, signed by 350,000 people, that called for "netting" to become a criminal offence.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says developers do it to make it easier for them to remove greenery when the time comes, because although it is an offence to destroy an active nest, there are no laws to prevent the installation of nets to stop birds nesting in the first place.
'Treasure our wildlife'
The petition, started by Margaret Moran, says netting "facilitates the uprooting of hedgerows which aid biodiversity and provide the only remaining nesting sites for birds, whose numbers are in sharp decline".
It "threatens declining species of birds, presents a danger by entrapment to wildlife, and produces large amounts of plastic waste", the petition adds.
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SNP MP John McNally told the Parliamentary Petitions Committee that netting should stop, or at the very least be subject to regulation.
"Even with some safeguards in place, my feeling is that this practice is in no way acceptable," he said.
"If we treasure our precious wildlife then netting simply has to stop."
Mr Grant said it was "disappointing to learn of the practice" that is used by developers during building work.
He said he understood some developers have banned the practice and he hoped others would follow suit.
"Birds and wildlife are part of our ecosystem and part of our planet," he said.
Labour's Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington, said netting was "being used more and more as a safeguard" and developers were "far too relaxed" in using the procedure.
She said there seemed to be "little regulation".
Conservative Dame Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham, agreed the government "needs to regulate" to prevent the practice spreading further.
The RSPB has said "careful consideration" will be needed to develop rules around netting "that really help birds, and allow legitimate activity to continue".
While it might be legal, the organisation said, "we cannot stand by and let the current practices spread unchallenged."
Responding to the petition, the government said "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."