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Victory for residents as tree nets to stop nesting birds come down at Solihull retail park

Felix Nobes 22nd Mar, 2019 Updated: 22nd Mar, 2019

‘BARBARIC’ nets to stop birds nesting have been taken down from trees at a retail park in a ‘victory for people power’.

Bosses at Sears Retail Park in Shirley say the move to cover five trees in green nets earlier this month, in peak nesting season, was made to ‘protect birds’ from work set to begin at the former Homebase site.

The practise is legal but the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) urges developers to do work outside of breeding season.

The move prompted fury on social media with residents raising concerns that the birds could get caught in the mesh and die.

Councillors and campaigners wrote to park bosses to demand the nets were taken down.

The practise has drawn national condemnation with campaigners finding dead birds in nets across the country.

Green Party Councillor Tim Hodgson for Shirley said: “It’s a great victory for people power.

“The work we have done directly challenging owners and writing to them, its worked.

“I think it’s outrageous they would do this during nesting season, and its sparked public outrage, rightly so.

“Community campaigners have been tearing down the netting elsewhere in the country.

“Recently this has dominated the issues people have contacted me about, and my colleagues in Shirley South.”

It sparked an angry response on social media with one resident Tweeting: “For it to happen to a mature tree which is an ecosystem hosting a disparate range of nature (some dountless hibernating still) is barbaric.”

Another Tweet read: “I wondered what the nets were for. Disgusted. The town motto is ‘Urbs in Rure’.

“Don’t spoil Solihull for more sheds.”

An RSPB spokesperson told us last week: “It is legal, so if absolutely necessary, it’s crucial that it be done properly to minimise the risks to wildlife.

“This means checking for birds and other animals when the netting is fitted, and then ongoing regular checks, as wildlife often finds a way to get under the edge of a net and then get stuck.”

Sears said the redevelopment of the former Homebase unit is part of multi-million-pound investment, which is expected to create in excess of 100 jobs for the local community and the area will be re-landscaped, with the removal of any trees will be kept to a minimum.

A spokesperson for Sears Retail Park said: “We are highly conscious and considerate of all local wildlife and will remove the netting as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Until the nets are removed we are ensuring they are checked on a regular basis.

“The nets placed on the trees are there as a precaution and to ensure birds are protected during the nesting season from the demolition, construction and redevelopment work about to begin at the site of the former Homebase unit.

“The nets are standard practice and have the approval of Solihull Council, with whom we’re in ongoing discussions to try and get the redevelopment project underway as soon as possible.

“Should anyone in the community have any concerns about the nets or the welfare of wildlife they can get in touch through the details available on site.”

COUNCIL RESPONSE:

A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “Regarding the planning for Homebase Sears Retail Park, which was approved on 25 February 2019, we did not approve the use of netting as councils do not have either the authority to give permission or refuse the use of netting.

“Solihull Council approved a planning application on 25 February which concerns the demolition of the existing retail unit and development of the ground floor retail unit, alterations to the former garden centre and car park.   In other words, Solihull Council approved the planning application but did not approve or refuse the use of netting.  We hope this clarifies the matter.”

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