This petition was submitted during the 2017–2019 Conservative government
Petition Make 'netting' hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence.
Developers, and other interested parties are circumventing laws protecting birds by 'netting' hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting.
This facilitates the uprooting of hedgerows which aid biodiversity and provide the only remaining nesting sites for birds, whose numbers are in sharp decline.
'Netting' hedgerows threatens declining species of birds, presents a danger by entrapment to wildlife, and produces large amounts of plastic waste.
This is how Jeremy Vine responded to reports of 'netting' in preparation for hedgerow removal:
This is how the human race ends, everybody.
We cover hedges with nets.
We get permission to build flats because there are no birds.
Then we live in the flats and feel pleased that no birdsong wakes us in the morning.
Then we die.
Sometimes I hate us.
This petition is closed This petition ran for 6 months
Parliament debated this topic
This topic was debated on 13 May 2019
This response was given on 4 November 2019
Causing suffering to birds is already criminal. Planning authorities have enforceable powers to protect bird habitats and will soon be able to mandate that developers provide biodiversity net gain.
Read the response in full
Wild birds and their nests are already protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a bird by an act, or a failure to act, where the person concerned knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would or be likely to cause unnecessary suffering. Anti-bird netting can, however, be appropriate in a few exceptional circumstances, to protect birds during construction work, or where birds have been identified as a health hazard.
Every local authority also has power to impose conditions when it grants planning permission, and these conditions can specify what information it needs to understand and protect any wildlife on the application site, and at what time of year development may take place. The authority can also use planning conditions to prevent disturbance on parts of a site, and stipulate how the phases of construction should be managed to avoid harm to biodiversity.
On 8 April 2019, in response to public concern about anti-bird netting around permissioned or potential development sites, a letter from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was forwarded to major house-builders. It reminded them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of any project on local wildlife and take precautionary action to protect habitat. The Secretary of State was clear that if developers do not follow their obligations, he has not ruled out further action to protect our country’s valuable ecological system. Following this, major house-builders announced an end to the practice on their sites.
Our National Planning Policy Framework expects planning policies and decisions to enhance the natural environment by minimising the impacts of development on, and providing net gains for, biodiversity. We plan to require developers to deliver biodiversity net gain, under the forthcoming Environment Bill. Local authorities will be able to make certain that avian habitat is left in a measurably better state than it was before development.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/244233)
Other parliamentary business
The Petitions Committee wants to know what you think about netting of hedgerows. The House of Commons Facebook group is hosting an online discussion, to get people's views on the issue ahead of the petition debate in Westminster Hall on Monday 13 May.
The discussion is live now. On Tuesday 7 May, from 3pm-4pm, it will be joined by Mike Hill MP, a Member of the Petitions Committee, who will be leading the debate in Westminster Hall. Join the discussion below and tell us about your experiences and views.
Find out about how to get involved in your UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/
Original Government response
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.
On 8 April, we wrote to developers to remind them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of any project on local wildlife and, where necessary, to take precautionary action to protect their habitats. Developments should enhance natural environments, not destroy them. It is vital that developers take these words on board and play their full role to make sure we can deliver new communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
Wild birds are protected by provisions in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering to a bird by an act, or a failure to act, where the person concerned knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would or be likely to cause unnecessary suffering.
Any development project must consider the impact on local wildlife and take precautionary action to protect habitat. Bird netting should be kept to a minimum, and used only to help protect birds during development.
In accordance with Natural England’s standing advice for local authorities needing to assess planning applications that affect wild birds, survey reports and mitigation plans are required for projects that could affect protected species. Our revised National Planning Policy Framework also makes clear that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural environment by minimising the impacts on, and providing net gains for, biodiversity. However, we plan to require developers to deliver biodiversity net gain, under new arrangements in the forthcoming Environment Bill. This will mean wildlife habitat must be left in a measurably better state than it was before any development.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
This response was given on 10 April 2019. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.