Natural England welcomes the letter from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Secretary, James Brokenshire, urging developers to take more care of wildlife habitats whilst carrying out building work.
Over the past few days members of the public have been understandably distressed by the use of netting in some circumstances to prevent nesting by birds on development sites.
All wild birds are protected by law. Natural England does not regulate the use of netting, but it is essential that developers look at the most suitable option for complying with the law.
Survey reports and mitigation plans are required for projects that could affect protected species. This is part of the planning permission process.
The surveys will need to show whether protected species are present, and how they use the site. Mitigation plans need to show how developers will avoid or manage any negative impacts on protected species. In some limited circumstances netting may have a role to play in avoiding temporary impacts.
It is for those who install exclusion measures such as netting to ensure the mesh size of netting is suitable for the species involved and is properly maintained to ensure that they don’t commit offences against wild birds.
Where developers or local authorities feel they have no other options but to use netting we would always advise they follow best practice, including use of appropriate material to avoid entanglement. This should also be properly maintained and monitored and use is kept to an absolute minimum, both in terms of time and area covered.
In the future the concept of Net Gain, as embedded in the draft Environment Bill, will mean developers will need to be able to demonstrate that they can go even further, beyond avoiding harm to delivering overall benefit for wildlife and habitats.