In a weird bit of prescience, a story I did earlier has been picked up by the communities secretary!
Probably not literally but coincidental nonetheless, James Brokenshire MP has said that developers must take more care to protect wildlife habitats, mere hours after this story about netting being used to stop birds nesting.
Of course, I got the story from somewhere else anyway, and it’s no doubt more mainstream sources that the government is referring to when it talks of ‘increasing concern over netting being placed in trees and hedgerows ahead of building work near housing developments’.
The communities secretary has now written to ‘leading developers’ to remind them 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’.
If developers don’t follow their obligations, MP Brokenshire hasn’t ruled out ‘further action’, though what that may entail I couldn’t tell you.
Apparently, ‘the revised planning rulebook is also already clear that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by minimising the impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity’.
And according to the government, ‘this government is going further’ by ‘announcing plans to require developers to deliver biodiversity net gain [sic] through the forthcoming Environment Bill’.
MP Brokenshire 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.’
As you can imagine, the RSPB’s director for conservation, Martin Harper, is also quite concerned about birds nesting sites being netted in preparation for destruction. He said: ‘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.’