SOS... Save Our Swifts!

SWIFT ACTION:  Andrew O'Neill, who successfully incorporated nesting sites during external re-pointing at his shop in Berry Lane, Longridge, is pictured (centre), with Ribble Valley councillor Rupert Swarbrick (left) and Gavin Thomas.
SWIFT ACTION: Andrew O'Neill, who successfully incorporated nesting sites during external re-pointing at his shop in Berry Lane, Longridge, is pictured (centre), with Ribble Valley councillor Rupert Swarbrick (left) and Gavin Thomas.

RIBBLE Valley Borough Council has joined forces with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in a swoop on the decline in swifts and swallows.

It is one of the first councils in England to use the planning process to protect the habitats of declining urban birds. The UK’s swift population has declined by more than a third since 1995 due to the loss of nesting sites in roof spaces.

Swifts return to the same nesting site, usually in gaps in pointing or behind fascia boards, year after year, but their nesting sites are being lost due to renovation work and the demolition of old buildings.

Now Ribble Valley Borough Council is telling developers to preserve nesting sites in existing buildings and incorporate new ones in newly built properties.

Ribble Valley Borough Council’s countryside officer, David Hewitt, said: “If there is evidence that birds of conservation concern are nesting in a building, planning conditions can be used to ensure the nests are protected and enhanced.

“Similarly, the planning process can be used to ensure new developments incorporate artificial nesting sites, such as nesting bricks and external nesting boxes. We are one of the first councils in the country to use the planning process to deliver species recovery and bio-diversity action plans.

“We hope this measure will protect these fantastic birds for years to come and halt their dramatic decline.”

RSPB Bowland officer Gavin Thomas added: “Swifts provide a spectacular sight scything through the summer skies and an atmospheric sonic background on summer evenings.

“Incorporating nest boxes into the fabric of new development has the potential to boost the population of these declining birds, without compromising the responsibilities or finances of developers.

“We urge other councils to follow Ribble Valley’s lead and ensure that urban environments remain wildlife-rich.”