Council admits putting up too much netting at Bacton cliffs in Norfolk
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
An under-fire council has admitted putting up too much netting to stop sand martins accessing their nesting places and protect cliffs from coastal erosion, following a national outcry.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) installed netting along a 1.3km stretch of Bacton cliffs to deter birds during work on the Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Sandscaping scheme.
The project will see between 1.5 and 1.8 million cubic metres of sand placed on the beach to protect Bacton Gas Terminals and villages from erosion and flooding.
But the netting has stopped sand martins from nesting, and hundreds of people across the country have protested against it.
A discussion about it was even held on today’s BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show.
Steve Blatch, the councils’s head of paid service, said the upper levels of netting would start to be taken down from tomorrow.
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He added: “We had our first face to face meeting with the RSPB and we will remove as much netting as we can. We are also trying to source geotextiles to cover the lower levels of the cliff, which we could not source before.
“Further discussions will take place with the RSPB, Natural England and our contractors in the next few days to see where the netting will be retained.
“The netting over 7m in height will definitely be removed. The RSPB said there was no risk to sand martins, at higher levels, from disturbance during the sandscaping work this summer.”
He admitted that too much netting had been installed, added: “The netting was put up because the migratory birds were due to arrive and occupy the burrows, and there were other nesting sites to the west.
“We covered the cliff nest holes from being used this season, because of the engineering work due to be carried out with the sandscaping scheme on the beach.
“It’s a very emotive issue and many people have commented out of raw emotion rather than understanding the project. We apologise for any distress caused to individuals.”
About 40 protesters, including members of the Save Bacton Sand Martins group, gathered at the beach on Tuesday afternoon.
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