‘The whole of Norfolk is disgusted by it’ - but broadcaster defends use of bird netting on radio

The head of North Norfolk Council has said she is saddened by the misunderstanding between officers

The head of North Norfolk Council has said she is saddened by the misunderstanding between officers and the RSPB. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

A broadcaster defended a council's decision to install netting on cliffs on the Jeremy Vine radio show today.

Vanessa Feltz, standing in for Mr Vine, debated whether it was better to stop coastal erosion, or protect sand martins.

It follows the outrage expressed after North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) decided to install the netting at Bacton cliffs to deter birds during work on the Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Sandscaping scheme, which aims to prevent coastal erosion.

The netting stops sand martins from nesting, and hundreds of people across the country have taken to social media to protest.

Ms Feltz was joined on the show by Bob Carter from BBC Norfolk, who said he visited Bacton cliffs on Friday morning.

He said: 'I saw sand martins wheeling around in the sky, trying to get into their holes, and doing it again and again. It broke my heart.

'The question we have been asking the council, without success, is what would have happened if they had not put the nets up.

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'We think that, it's because when the sand is up against the cliffs, the sand martins would not be able to get out, but we did not know.,'

Local wildlife campaigner Maggie Wilcox, from Overstrand, said: 'It's a matter of timing. The council did not have to do it now. The problem is NNDC failing to heed the advice given by the RSPB.'

Former BBC broadcaster and columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times, Simon Warr said: 'Let's get a bit of perspective on this. The colonies of sand martins are used to moving around. They are hugely adaptable and versatile. Any bird that can fly thousands of miles has to be adaptable.

'They could somewhere else to go - to railway cuttings, rotten brickwork, or even drainage pipes.

'With the erosion of the cliffs at Happisburgh, just a few miles away, I welcome the council implementing something that will tackle erosion.'

But Maggie repled: 'This is the only suitable habitat on this part of the coast and they have a limited time to breed. I'm not opposed to the sandscaping scheme. What I have issues with is how they have approached it.'

One of the callers to the show, whose name was just given as Nicki, said: 'The whole of Norfolk is disgusted by it. It's a disgrace. it should have been done another time.'

Another caller added: 'Anyone in favour of netting should hang their head in shame.'

Another caller said the number of sand martins was in decline, and added: 'Some sand martins return to the same nest where they were born.'

But another caller said cliff erosion had to be stopped first and foremost.

'If there are no cliffs left, there won't be any for sand martins to nest in, anyway,' he said.

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