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Protest meeting over Norfolk council's use of nets on Bacton cliffs

A sand martin leaving its nesting hole. Pic: Ian Burt

A sand martin leaving its nesting hole. Pic: Ian Burt

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A protest meeting will be held to discuss a Norfolk council's controversial use of netting on cliffs, which is preventing sand martins from getting to their nesting sites.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) put the temporary netting up on cliffs at Bacton to deter the birds from nesting during work on the Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Sandscaping Scheme.

This will see 1.8m cubic metres of sand put on the beaches to protect them from erosion.

The council said Natural England approved the netting and the RSPB had given advice.

But the RSPB has already hit out at those claims saying that the local authority had not followed its advice or its own construction plans.

And now the social media group #NestsNotNets has tweeted that there will be a protest at the site at 5pm today.

It said it will be held “on the public beach so allow plenty of time to find everyone”.

Meanwhile, a former deputy chairman of Natural England has also waded into the debate.

Professor David Hill, who has a home in north Norfolk, said: “It is ridiculous. I find this hard to believe that the development was so poorly planned that they have had to exclude these superb birds from nesting.

“I pay council tax in north Norfolk as well as being an avid birder and conservationist. We really do need to sort out the way the development industry operates and how the ecological consultants seem to provide such advice that misses the point about conservation, especially in the case of these migrants that travel long distances to breed here.

“It really is about time that planning authorities took their legal duties and responsibility for biodiversity seriously, and programme-timing of works is key to that responsibility.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has also tweeted that he plans to discuss the concerns with NNDC.

The RSPB has shared video footage of a sand martin trying to access a burrow in a cliff, only to be prevented by the netting. The RSPB East Twitter account said the effect of the netting was “heart-breaking” and that after meeting council members it had “implored” the local authority to remove the netting.

Sarah Butikofer, leader of NNDC, said she had met officers to discuss nets at Bacton, and an urgent site meeting to resolve the situation was planned.

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