Every year, sand martins undertake a huge journey from Africa to the UK in order to return to their nesting sites. But this year, thousands of the birds are being stopped in their tracks by netting. Norfolk District Council has come under fire for erecting the nets to keep returning birds away from a sandscaping project near Bacton.
Footage of distressed birds
Local wildlife enthusiasts had captured footage of distressed birds attempting to reach their burrows only to be foiled by the nets. The conservationists then raised the alarm. The situation in Norfolk follows numerous reports of hedgerows across the country being covered by netting.
Conservationists have been emphasising that developers are frequently using nets to keep wildlife away from their sites or to prevent wildlife from inhabiting vegetation which is earmarked for destruction. Unfortunately, birds and animals easily become tangled in the nets.
Protecting property from erosion
The controversy in Norfolk surrounds a project to haul 1.8 million cubic metres of sand to beaches to protect a gas terminal and local villages from erosion. Officials claim that they have taken measures to divert the birds elsewhere and that their methods have been approved by Natural England and the RSPB. However, the RSPB say that the nets do not reflect its recommendations. There’s a surprise!
“The decision by North Norfolk District Council to net the cliffs at Bacton does not follow the advice previously given by the RSPB, nor indeed the council’s own plans for this site”.
Nature experts feels that the nets are an overly simplistic means of keeping birds away while the RSPB are asking the council to remove the nets to enable sand martins to access their nesting sites. The communities secretary, has apparently written to the developers to remind then of their legal obligation to assess the impact of their project on wildlife. Something they appear to have ignored thus far.
For their part, the Home Builders Federation has stressed its commitment to supporting biodiversity and protecting wildlife. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Unseemly bickering about birds
This is one of many arguments about conservation featuring various bodies bickering over what should and should not be done. It would appear that many developers will do as little as possible to protect wildlife while those who seek to ensure that developers do more can often prove rather toothless. Is this disturbing episode proof positive that birds are too low on the pecking order to receive the protection they need?
At least voices of dissents are being raised and there are attempts to address what is becoming a huge problem. Taking care of wildlife costs developers money but the impact of not fulfilling their obligations could last a lifetime or possibly forever and will affect us all. It’s time to put nature first and that might mean that we all have to pay a little more to preserve vulnerable species and biodiversity in this country. What price the future of sand martins?