Nets like these are used by some developers to stop birds nesting so they can cut down trees and bushes

By Dr Nicola Meakins, environmental manager

There have been angry shockwaves in the media and in social media over the practice of some developers, councils and engineering companies putting bird netting around trees and hedges on their building sites as way to prevent birds nesting – and I’m not surprised.

The intention is that by preventing nests being built the netted trees and hedges can be cleared to allow work to commence.

Last week, we held one of our regular Partnership Environmental Working Group meetings with our delivery partners – the contractors who carry out big engineering projects on our behalf – and discussed the issue.

While it is still legal to do this, we have instigated an out-right ban on such practices. Pleasingly, there was whole-hearted agreement in the meeting that netting was not acceptable – it’s clumsy, potentially cruel and bad practice.

Our policy is inspired by the recent statement from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management – but we’ve gone further.

We believe we are the first company in our industry to make this commitment but hope and believe we will not be the last.

Our partners already work closely with our enabling team of ecologists who ensure that when vegetation does need to be removed it is done well before the nesting season starts with appropriate mitigation measures in places such as creating other habitats nearby. In the event that bushes and trees need to be cleared after March, our ecologists conduct pre-works nesting checks and leave active nests undisturbed when they are found.

These methods actually work better than netting. Developers who have banned netting should consider the following:

  • Netting doesn’t work – birds quickly find holes

  • It is labour intensive because sadly they must be checked three times a day for animals and birds caught up – stressful for wildlife trapped and stressful when they are being set free.

Our policy also satisfies another company-wide goal at Southern Water – eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic as part of our industry leading Plastics Policy.

We think we are the first company in the industry to institute a ban. I’m sure we won’t be the last.