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Parliament to debate making netting hedges to stop birds nesting a criminal offence

PUBLISHED: 11:41 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 13 May 2019

Protestors at Bacton over the cliff netting which is stopping Sand Martins from nesting. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Protestors at Bacton over the cliff netting which is stopping Sand Martins from nesting. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

MPs are today set to debate a petition calling for netting hedges to prevent birds from nesting to be made a criminal offence.

Parliament are set to debate a petition calling to criminalise netting hedges to stop birds nesting there. Photo: UK ParliamentParliament are set to debate a petition calling to criminalise netting hedges to stop birds nesting there. Photo: UK Parliament

The petition, which describes the practice of covering hedgerows with netting to prevent birds from returning to nest there as "a danger to wildlife" and "entrapment", has gathered more than 355,000 thousand signatures after it was set up in March on the government's official UK Parliament website.

It follows a row over netting after a Norfolk council was condemned for installing a mile-long stretch of netting along the cliffs at Bacton, in preparation for major coastal erosion prevention works.

READ MORE: Council admits putting up too much netting at Bacton cliffs in Norfolk

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) admitted they had installed too much netting after the issue received national attention sparked by protestors and was debated on the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show.

Campaigners have also been angered by the use of netting at Tesco stores across Norfolk, including in Dereham, Diss and Norwich.

Norwich TV presenter Jake Humphrey slammed the supermarket chain's use of the netting on Twitter, stating: "Experts say returning swallows will get caught and die.

"Take them down."

READ MORE: Call for netting that could stop birds nesting to be removed from second Tesco supermarket

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The netting petition states: "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."

Protestors at Bacton over the cliff netting which is stopping Sand Martins from nesting. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodProtestors at Bacton over the cliff netting which is stopping Sand Martins from nesting. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Parliament are obligated to debate any petition with more than 100,000 signatures - and must issue a response to any with more than 10,000 supporters.

A government response, issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on April 10, stated: "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."

It continued: "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."

The petition will be debated in the House of Commons in Westminster Hall at 4.30pm this afternoon (Monday, May 13), and opened by Labour MP Mike Hill.

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV.

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