CALLS for developers to stop ‘netting’ hedges and trees are building momentum in Herefordshire where wildlife supporters are voicing strong opposition to the practice.

Thousands have signed a UK-wide petition demanding that netting should be stopped and the Government has stated that any development project must consider the impact and take precautionary action to protect habitat. Developers must fulfil their obligation to “safeguard local wildlife and habitats”, says the official statement.

“Netting trees and hedgerows is only appropriate where genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.”

But groups and individuals across Herefordshire are deeply concerned about netting, particularly during the current nesting period.

Maureen Williams, who runs Hollycroft Hedgehog Rescue at Tillington has expressed concern about netting that was “pinned down tightly” on hedgerows visible to motorists travelling from Burghill church towards the Canon Pyon road.

“Any hedgehog coming out of hibernation walking in at the unsealed end is trapped and therefore may become injured, likewise other ground-dwelling animals including foxes or badgers can no longer travel from field to field,” she said.

“It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it’s in use or being built, or to intentionally take or destroy any eggs,” she pointed out. “This netting stops birds from using the hedgerow or tree so that law is circumnavigated by developers.”

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust has already made clear its worries about the practice, and more and more people are adding their names to an on-line petition calling for netting to be stopped.

Angela Starling, who volunteers for the hedgehog rescue group, has real concerns for mammals and as a member of Herefordshire Ornithological Society, for birdlife too.

“Wildlife is struggling in any case with so much loss of habitat and now this is another hurdle for animals and birds to deal with,” she said.

However she was heartened at the level of opposition being voiced across the country.

“It’s amazing how many people are against it,” she said. “So many have stood up against this.”