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Outcry prompts Cambridge Water to remove bird netting on hedgerows

Cambridge Water is to remove bird netting from hedgerows after causing an outcry.

The water company installed the nets on hedges off Butt Lane in Milton and off Waterbeach Road in Landbeach.

Bird netting put up by Cambridge Water in Butt Lane, Milton. It will be removed, the company said. Picture: Keith Heppell
Bird netting put up by Cambridge Water in Butt Lane, Milton. It will be removed, the company said. Picture: Keith Heppell

They were designed to prevent birds nesting this spring so that the hedges can be removed to lay a new mains pipeline to serve the new housing development in Waterbeach.

But the nets prompted a furious reaction, with conservationists pointing out that birds can become stuck in them - and even killed as a result.

Many took to social media to complain, and Cambridge Water said it had taken advice from its ecologist before installing the netting.

Yesterday (March 11), the Cambridge Independent also challenged the company over the decision.

Today, after reflecting on the decision, the company agreed to remove the netting from Monday.

Ciaran Kelly, head of operations at Cambridge Water, told the Cambridge Independent: “I am aware of the feelings against the hedge netting around the A10, and would like to highlight that I am very sorry for this upset and will organise to start removing the netting from today.

“As part of our duty to supply clean water to our customers, it is necessary to install a new pipeline for a housing development in Waterbeach.

“This will require us to work in partnership with landowners for access and to minimise the impact on wildlife.

“Unfortunately in this circumstance, we would normally have started the work earlier to avoid nesting season, but we need to wait until archaeological excavations are completed.

“Following the feedback we’ve received from members of the public, we have reconsidered our methods and, instead of using netting, we will complete a thorough nesting survey before we start work.

“This survey will enable us to ensure that any hedging we need to remove, does not have nesting birds. We will, of course, replace and aim to enhance the hedging that is removed, once our work is completed.

“We are committed to improving biodiversity on our land, so we work in partnership with landowners and the communities in which we operate.

“Thank you to everyone who has commented about this, it has helped us improve our procedures and helped us ensure that we protect nature and the environment.”

When the Cambridge Independent one of the sites today, the netting already appeared to be in disarray.

The dispute echoes a similar debate in Cambridge last year, when the University of Cambridge was prompted to “unreservedly” apologise for putting nets over 20 trees beside the expanding Whittle Laboratory on the West Cambridge site.

That also prompted fierce criticism - including from conservationist and TV presenter Chris Packham - and direct action from Extinction Rebellion campaigners, who removed some of the nets.

The university accepted that it was wrong to put up the nets, and removed the rest of them.

Read more

University of Cambridge removes bird netting and ‘unreservedly apologises’

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