UPDATE - April 12: The hedges too have now reportedly been removed, as planned by the developers, ahead of site preparation and construction work.

NETS designed to stop birds from nesting in hedges at a Chester housing development have been taken down.

The move follows an outcry from many local residents and nature lovers – although site owners Redrow and Taylor Wimpey stress they have done nothing illegal.

The two companies say they decided removing the netting was "the most appropriate action" following talks with Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).

The Standard first brought the issue to light on March 14 with a front-page story on the nets being fitted at land off Wrexham Road, which has been earmarked for 1,269 homes.

They are used because it is an offence under UK law to disturb any nesting birds once they have set up home.

The developers need to remove a number of hedgerows before work starts on the site and they are keen to avoid being delayed by an entire nesting season.

Environmental campaigner Andy Scargill took photos on Tuesday (April 9) of the nets being removed from the hedgerows.

Asked by this newspaper why the nets had been taken down, Paul Sinclair, technical director for Redrow Homes (NW), said: “After liaising with Cheshire West and Chester Council, it was agreed the most appropriate action was to remove the netted section of hedgerow on Wrexham Road.

"This has been completed in readiness of works commencing in the near future. An ecological expert inspected the hedges immediately prior to removal to ensure no birds or nests were present.”

CWaC has been approached for a comment on what was advised.

Both Redrow and Taylor Wimpey had previously stressed that the netting work is carried out by specialist contractors who make regular checks to ensure wildlife has not become trapped.

The issue of netting hedges has sparked a national response with TV presenter and wildlife expert Chris Packham saying it showed “brutal ignorance” of how to look after the countryside.

An official petition entitled ‘Make netting hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence’ has so far attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

The RSPB has urged people to sign and has started a campaign for new laws aimed at ensuring practices like netting come under greater scrutiny.