DANGEROUS netting put over hedgerows last week in Theale has already trapped at least four birds which were rescued by residents.

The netting was placed over hedgerows on Englefield Road near the site of the new primary school in Theale, where building work will soon begin.

Hedges are commonly netted before removal to stop birds from nesting in them. But it is a legal requirement that a licensed ecologist puts the nets up, because if done wrongly this can be dangerous for birds and hedgehogs.

EMEC Ecology, an ecological consultancy, said: “It is important to ensure that no gaps, raised sections or tears occur in the netting itself, or where the netting meets the ground. Any such gaps could allow access for birds to enter the netted hedgerow and build nests.”

The netting on the hedges in Theale however, does not follow these guidelines. Since it was put up last week, at least four birds have been trapped, according to residents. Two hedgerows have been netted, both each around 100 metres long.

Carolyne Culver, chair of the West Berkshire Green party, said: “There are large holes in the hedge netting where birds and small mammals like hedgehogs could enter and become entangled.

“It isn’t clear whether a licensed ecologist checked the hedge for nesting birds before it was netted, which is a legal requirement. I’m still waiting for an answer from West Berkshire Council.”

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird while it is nest building. On Saturday March 16, some of the netting on one of the hedges was removed, but it is unclear who is responsible.

Jeanette Clifford, the council’s lead member for environment and countryside, was unavailable to comment.

Ms Culver said: “We are losing far too many hedgerows and birds in this country. If residents spot trapped birds or mammals they should call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.”

The Soil Association said: “Hedgerows are bustling with activity, with everything from the scurrying bank vole to the harvest mouse, foraging bats to roosting birds. The diverse range of plant life contained within hedges can help combat climate change by storing carbon in vegetation and as soil organic matter.”