In a letter to developers, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP has today (8th April) warned that more care must be given to protect the habitats of wildlife during building work.
Following concerns over netting being placed in trees and hedgerows ahead of work near housing developments, developers have been reminded of their legal obligation to consider the impact of a project on local wildlife and, where necessary, take precautionary action to protect habitats.
The Communities Secretary further emphasised that birds are protected under the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981, and that mitigation plans will need to show how developers will avoid or manage any negative effects on protected species during their work.
Currently, it is said to be common practice for netting to be placed over trees and hedgerows, unnecessarily enforcing a trap to wildlife.
If developers do not follow their obligations, the Secretary of State has reported that he will not rule out further action to protect our country’s valuable ecological system.
Announced government plans are also due to include the requirement of developers to deliver biodiversity net gain through the forthcoming Environment Bill, meaning habitats for wildlife must be left in a measurably better state than they were before any development.
On the announcement, James Brokenshire MP said: “Whilst building new homes is vital, we must take every care to avoid unnecessary loss of habitats that provide much-needed space for nature, including birds.
“Developments should enhance natural environments, not destroy them. Netting trees and hedgerows is only likely to be appropriate where it is genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.
“I hope developers will take these words on board and play their full role to make sure we can deliver new communities in an environmentally sustainable way.”
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director for conservation, added: “We cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces or demand that wildlife fits in with our plans.
“Across the UK wildlife is vanishing at an alarming rate, and our planning system must play a vital role in not just reversing this decline but helping nature to recover.
“Tree and hedge removal should be completed outside of nesting season. However, if there is absolutely no alternative, then netting must be used sparingly in line with the legal duties and responsibilities on developers, including regular checks to ensure wildlife isn’t getting trapped, injured or worse.
“We are pleased to see the Secretary of State is acknowledging the concerns many people have about the use of netting, and how strongly we all feel about sharing our future neighbourhoods with nature rather than pushing it away.”