updated February 29
There has been a lot of publicity recently around the placing of nets over more than 20 trees at the Whittle Laboratory on JJ Thomson Avenue. They have been placed there by Cambridge University with the aim of discouraging birds from nesting during the planning process.
I deplore this use of netting to cover trees and and have never seen netting used this way before in Cambridge.
I really do not understand the reasoning behind this – the university normally takes long, considered views on their investments and has done so for over 800 years. But in this case, there seems to be an urgency that has resulted in harm to the landscaping and danger to the wildlife.
These trees seem to have no ivy growing on them, no scrubs around them, and the canopies are open so it would seem that the risk of birds nesting was low. This now has to be weighed against the risk of birds being injured by the nets themselves.
I explored what action the Council could take in regard to the netting and it is clear that we cannot. The trees are privately owned and not protected. Even if they were protected, currently it is not a criminal offence to use netting on trees or hedges.
While our options are limited, I requested a meeting with the University and expressed my grave concerns by email and in a number of phone conversations. I wanted to understand why the University thought that netting trees was an acceptable way forward and if they can consider alternatives.
Now the university has acknowledged its mistake and agreed to remove all of the netting. In a tweet they said: We are removing the netting over trees in West Cambridge that have upset people. The decision to use nets to discourage nesting birds ahead of building works was wrong and we unreservedly apologise.
I’m pleased that they have realised that nets are not the way to deal with this issue, and hope that we can continue to discuss how best to resolve this issue in the longer term.