The green netting put in place to prevent birds nesting at Rocks Green has been pulled away. This was not an act by the developer or the landowner. It was an action by eco-protesters. But this is a stupid way of protesting. A demonstration was organised next Sunday against this scheme and in support of the growing national campaign against hedge netting. But there is no longer a backdrop to the banners. The media are now unlikely to turn out.
The developer has confirmed that new netting will not be reinstalled.
I don’t approve of netting except under the most strictly regulated circumstances. Those regulations don’t yet exist and I have asked Ludlow’s MP Philip Dunne to attend a debate in Parliament to insist on better controls.
I understand where protesters are coming from on this. I can see why they thought there was a need to remove the netting. But this action has trashed the opportunity to raise the profile of the netting issue in Shropshire.
The netting has been causing controversy for weeks.
Some weeks ago, Pickstone Homes wrapped green mesh netting over the hedgerows ahead of its development of 200 homes off the A4117 south of Rocks Green. Netting is a tactic that developers have resorted to in the last couple of years as they try to push development ahead on ever tighter timescales. They are hampered by a rapidly growing nesting season. There were once five months when birds did not nest. This year that was down to well under four months. Hedgehogs no longer hibernate for as long as they did in my childhood.
There were three stages to the Rocks Green netting.
Stage 1. Loose Ends
Initially the netting was badly installed with gaps and both ends open.
The ends were closed with some loss of hedgerow. But one animal had to burrow out as the second image shows.
Stage 3. Removal.
These photos are from early this afternoon.
This was eco activism, vandalism, criminal damage, call it what you will. It may have got some people a buzz but I am far from convinced it was the best thing to do. If there was immediate evidence of wildlife being trapped, I would defend removal or slitting of any netting. But the action has destroyed the opportunity for a very good protest against a practice that should be outlawed by default and permitted only under the strictest controls.
This was an anti-protest protest. In planer English, a home goal. Demonstrators have been driving up support and preparing banners ready for a protest next Sunday. Media organisations werecommitted to coverage. But the scene for that protest and the media opportunity has now been stripped away.
This debate needs to move on from the current hue and cry towards getting a robust national ecological strategy in place. My view is that the default position should be that netting must be illegal. There may be some cases where netting cannot be avoided. These should subject to prior approval by the local authority and subject to strict guidelines on installation and inspection approved by the CIEEM and RSPB.