Government refuses to criminalise bird netting after Bacton cliffs outcry
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
The government has rejected calls to make bird netting on new developments illegal after a 355,000 signature petition urged a change in the law.
It prompted a debate in Parliament over the issue, brought by Labour MP Mike Hill.
It follows a row over netting when North Norfolk District Council installed a mile-long stretch of netting along the cliffs at Bacton, in preparation for major coastal erosion prevention works.
The council 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.
Mr Hill said in response to a question from Norman Lamb he found the netting at Bacton "absolutely shocking".
"[Netting] is a practice that appears to be on the increase and appears to be driven by the irrefutable demand for new housing," he said.
"We can't stand by and let the current practices go unchallenged. It is an offence to destroy an active bird's nest but there is no legislation against the installation of netting."
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Mr Lamb said it was "really important on schemes like these there is real close collaboration between councils and organisations like the RSPB to protect birds".
Dame Cheryl Gillan, who said netting is being used in preparation for the HS2 project, said: "We are certainly engaged in a battle for our environment with global warming.
"If we do not pay attention to the smallest creatures in our wildlife we will end up with a very sorry and barren world in which future generations will have to live."
But the government refused to criminalise the use of netting, saying local authorities can already mitigate the issue.
Heather Wheeler MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said she found footage of the sandmartins at Bacton "very distressing".
"Prosecutions can be brought if someone causes unnecessary suffering to a bird by an act or a failure to act," she said.
"Today local authorities already have a duty to pursue net gains in biodiversity."
But she added the government will seek to make biodiversity net gains "mandatory" for developers in the draft Environment Bill.
"While we reject calls for more detailed regulation we have the deepest respect for the petitioners," she said. "While we pursue our campaign to build houses we must do all we can to champion our natural environment."