UNHAPPY residents have voiced their anger at the 'netting' of hedgerows at a housing site in South Lakeland.

The practice, which is completely legal, enables developers to stop any birds nesting in hedgerows they are planning to remove as part of a development.

But the deployment of lengths of netting at the development at Vicarage Lane, Allithwaite, has triggered protests from residents and campaigners, who have cited environmental issues as well as condemning the nets as unsightly.

However, developers Russell Armer Homes have defended the move and explained that only a small portion of the hedgerow has been netted, and this section was due to be removed shortly anyway.

The nets were put in place around a month ago at the site, which will see the construction of 23 new homes following the granting of planning permission by South Lakeland District Council.

"Everyone around here is very angry," said Christopher Dean, whose home is adjacent to the site.

And fellow Allithwaite resident Emma Beresford said the nets were a blight on a much loved rural village.

"The village is so well kept and the wildlife around these hedgerows is amazing," she said.

"People are very concerned about these nets."

But a spokesperson for Russell Armer said the hedgerows at the site had only been partially netted, and stressed that the netting at Allithwaite had been inspected by a professional ecologist before being deployed and was also checked daily to ensure no wildlife was trapped in it.

"A sunstantial amount of the existing hedgerows and trees are not netted, leaving significant habitat available for wildlife," said the spokesperson.

"We have carried out community consultation on the scheme and engaged from the outset with the local councillors.

"As a result we will be providing many community benefits including six much needed affordable homes, an open green space and land is being gifted to the church to extend its grounds.

"We are intending to commence development later this month and will be in touch with immediate neighbours at that time."

Another South Lakeland development site, the Beehive Business Park in Ulverston, has also seen nets put in place and the RSPB has also expressed its concern and urged a review of the current legislation.

"We cannot stand by and let the current practices spread unchallenged," said the organisation in a statement.

"If work is absolutely necessary, then the use of netting could be avoided by tree and hedge removal being completed outside of nesting season; backed up by a commitment to plant new trees and hedges, as no one wants to live in a neighbourhood where the sights and sounds of nature have been driven out.

"We encourage the Government to review the current law governing this area, and think creatively about what could be done to solve a problem that is upsetting so many people, and pushing nature away from our lives."