A WILDLIFE charity has called on developers to not put up netting on hedgerows during nesting season.

The practice, which is legal, enables developers to stop any birds nesting in hedgerows that they are planning to remove as part of a development.

One of these net sightings includes at the Ulverston Beehive site, where work began this month to build a new M&S food hall and an Aldi.

The nets were put up by the contractors after planning permission given by South Lakeland District Council.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Ulverston Town Council, where resident Steven Ray said: “It destroys habitats. This site has been abandoned since last year. 

“The bat population has also been decimated. This is a wildlife crime.”

Stephen Trotter, chief executive of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “We know wildlife is in trouble here in Cumbria, while one site in Ulverston seems to have had netting in place for two years.

“We believe if hedgerow removal must happen and has planning permission, it should be planned to be done outside the bird breeding season.”

Conservationist Elisabeth Ashleigh from Bardsea Bird Sanctuary said: “Bird numbers are diminishing around the South Lakes area, especially herring gulls.

“Although there are other causes to decline of numbers, such as depleting fisheries, these nets should not be used.

“Birds remember where they live and will return home, so to see netting can confuse them, which they easily get caught in - leading to greater drops in numbers.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says while it may sometimes be necessary to remove trees or hedges, developers should consider where possible to do it outside the nesting season, and if netting is essential, trained ecologists should be employed to make sure birds do not get trapped.

Steve Turner, Home Builders Federation’s director of communications, said: “Netting trees aligns with the relevant environmental requirements in instances where it has been agreed with the local authority that a tree has to be replaced.

“Developers use nets to stop birds nesting in trees that need to be replaced, or are near to construction work that could disturb the birds.

“Planning permissions only last so long so builders can’t afford to wait until the end of the nesting season to take down a tree, especially if the permission has already been delayed.”

Beehive developers Rawdon Property Group provided no comment about the netting.