A HOUSING developer has confirmed that netting torn down by campaigners, after a bird became entangled, will not be replaced.

On Tuesday, a group of around 20 people gathered on Edward Pease Way, near West Park Hospital, Darlington, after locals found trees covered in nets to stop birds from nesting.

The group found a dead dunnock, a small bird also known as a hedge sparrow, hanging by its feet which sparked an afternoon protest as the campaigners took down the netting and tied ribbons to the hedgerow.

Campaigners maintain that the practice of covering trees with netting is sometimes used by developers to prevent birds from nesting while they gain planning permission and enable them to cut down the trees when construction starts.

It is an offence to remove or destroy active nests of wild birds so the nesting season can delay the building process for several months.

However, the installation of ‘anti-bird’ netting has caused national outrage with incidences of wildlife becoming trapped, and sometimes dying, at sites across the UK.

A national petition was started to outlaw the netting and has received more than 34,000 signatures so far.

At West Park, the nets were set up by developer Homes by Esh which has outline approval from Darlington Borough Council for up to 1,200 homes.

The developer currently has construction sites in Darlington, Heighington, and Middleton-St George.

A spokesperson from the developer said: “Placing nets over vegetation is a practice widely used in the construction industry to protect nesting activity in advance of potential construction taking place.

“The nets were removed by the group who attended the site and I can confirm they will not be replaced.”

Ecological planning consultancy EPR said developers should reconsider their approach to preventing harm to wildlife on their sites in order to avoid reputational damage.

Regional director Dave Smith said: “Whatever the motivation, the choice to use netting can be perceived as an ethical judgement that might affect the perception of a company or site by the public, local politicians and local authorities.

“There is an opportunity to improve brand and commercial value for the business by appealing to nature-focused customers or visitors.

“Where netting is the only remaining option, it is important that it is installed under experienced professional supervision at a time when there will not already be nesting birds present.

“The right type of netting should also be used, that will not entangle birds or other wildlife and left in place for the minimum amount of time necessary.”

A spokesman at Darlington Borough Council said: “The council is aware of this issue and will continue to monitor it.”