RSPB hit out at local council for netting up a cliff stopping birds from nesting

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Sand martins prevented from nesting on Bacton cliff side, in Norfolk, by nets erected by North Norfolk District Council to attempt to combat cliff erosion.

Bird lovers hit out at a council putting up netting on a cliff side preventing sand martins from nesting.

The RSPB say that the netting is risking the lives of the birds as they may get stuck in it.

The RSPB shared a video on Twitter and said the effect of the material, which resembles a football net, was “heart breaking” and said that the council “have not taken out (and their contractor’s) original advice.”

The netting was put up on the Bacton cliff side, Norfolk, to deter wildlife from nesting during a project to stop erosion.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) will move 1.8 million cubic metres of sand from the cliff side and on to the beach.

The council says this will protect Bacton village from flooding for “up to 20 years”.

An online petition to stop the nets, has been created to: “Grant legal protection to Swallow, Swift and Martin nest sites not just nests.”

The petition has gained over 25,000 signatures to protect locations similar to the Bacton coast.

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: “We are disappointed that North Norfolk District Council have placed netting on the cliffs at Bacton to prevent sand martins from nesting.

We can confirm the Council’s actions do not follow RSPB advice, or indeed their own construction plans.”

Based on the images we have seen published, our advice has not been followed and we will be reaching out to NNDC to offer further advice and support.”

The decision has sparked outrage on social media, with some users sharing videos saying: “These innocent Sand Martins have travelled thousands of miles to revisit our amazing country & to find their nest sites netted up like this is crazy.

“Whoever’s ordered this, needs their family home taken from them!”

A North Norfolk District Council spokesman said: “The Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Scheme (the Bacton Sandscaping Scheme) is a highly complex project.

“It has been designed to protect hundreds of homes in Bacton and Walcott, and the critical infrastructure of Bacton Gas Terminal, for many years to come, and has been five years in the planning.

“It has been subject to full environmental impact assessment, planning permission and marine licence applications.

“We understand that the RSPB have concerns around the temporary netting element of the project and we are intending to meet with them and contractors on site to fully assess what those concerns are.”

North Norfolk District Council have given into pressure and have agreed to remove controversial netting on a cliff side that is preventing birds from accessing their nests.

Following a meeting with the Nature’s Voice the Council have announced: “Following positive discussions with the RSPB and Natural England today, we have instructed contractors to remove the upper levels of netting on Bacton cliffs.

“Minimum levels will be retained to assist in progressing with this critical project to protect people’s homes and national infrastructure.

“Following this, ongoing discussions will take place between NNDC and the RSPB about the material to be used on the lower section of cliff to allow this to happen.

“Please also be aware that these cliffs are not safe to climb on. Please don’t attempt to do this. A team of abseiling professionals will carry out the work in the next 24 hours.”

The RSPB are unhappy with the result as it doesn’t go far enough to protect sand martins and other birds.

A spokesperson said: “The issue and images of the Bacton cliff netting have been very upsetting for all.

“We are pleased to have had a conversation with North Norfolk District Council this afternoon about the situation. During the conversation, the Council committed to removing the netting covering the upper section of the cliffs tomorrow once their abseiling teams are available.

“We will be taking up an invitation from the Council to visit the site as soon as possible this week to discuss our outstanding concerns. This will cover our concerns regarding the 1.3km length of the netted cliff face that will remain.

“We will ask the Council to reduce this to 50m maximum and keep to a height of 7m. We will also be raising the issue of the material currently in use.

“We will be re-outlining our original recommendation of geotextile meshing to ensure that the burrows in the sandscaping zone are not smothered; in addition, by using geotextile it will also ensure no birds can be trapped.

“We will continue to keep everyone updated as the situation develops. Thank you for your concern regarding the sand martins.”

Two separate online petitions in connection have been signed by hundreds of thousands of people.

The petition ‘Make ‘netting’ hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence’ has over 260,000 signatures, and was supported by Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner.

The other, ‘Grant legal protection to Swallow, Swift and Martin nest sites not just nests’ has close to 40,000 signatures.

A protest has been organised at Bacton beach, Norfolk at 5pm this evening (8/9), by a private Facebook group in which members have threatened to remove the netting themselves.

The hashtag ‘NetsDownForNature’ has been trending on Twitter throughout the day.

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