14th May 2019
MPs debated the impact and legality of anti-bird netting on 13 May. Anti-netting campaigners welcomed the debate, which came after a petition gained more than 355,000 signatures. But the way it ended left campaigners absolutely fuming.
Labour MP Mike Hill led the cross-party debate on netting. Developers use the practice to prevent birds from nesting in their chosen location such as trees, hedgerows, rafters and cliffs. Interfering with already-nesting birds is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. So developers get around this law by putting up nets that stop birds from being able to nest in the first place. But conservationists and other wildlife advocates have condemned netting for seriously disrupting birds’ natural breeding patterns. Furthermore, as Hill said in his introduction to the debate:
the issue goes well beyond the detrimental effect of netting on nesting birds; netting affects the wellbeing of other wildlife, as well as having environmental consequences.
The debate took place after a petition on the government’s website reached more than 355,000 signatures. The debate noted this display of public concern. Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan, for example, said that more than 1,000 of the signatures came from her constituency alone and this reflected a “great concern” for the environment. And Hill described the petition as having “raised plenty of interest… and strong feelings”.
Agreement across the floor
MPs across political lines broadly agreed with the sentiment of the petition. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb highlighted the use of netting on cliffs in Bacton, north Norfolk, and emphasised the need for “close collaboration” between councils and groups such as the RSPB to “absolutely properly… protect birds”. Meanwhile, SNP MP John McNally said that his “feeling is that this practice is in no way acceptable”. And Luke Pollard, a Labour Co-operative MP, said: