Use of nets to stop sand martins nesting on cliffs at Bacton prompts council criticism

PUBLISHED: 19:22 07 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:22 07 April 2019

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

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

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The use of netting to encourage sand martins to nest elsewhere on the north Norfolk coast has seen a council come under fire.

North Norfolk District Council put the temporary netting up on cliffs at Bacton to deter the birds from nesting during work on the Sandscaping project, which will see 1.8m cubic metres of sand put on the beaches to protect them from erosion.

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

However, the method has been criticised. Maggie Wilcox, from Overstrand, said: “This is an emotive subject, especially when you are talking about tiny sand martins that have travelled thousands of miles only to find their nest sites blocked. This amber listed bird needs our support.”

The RSPB East twitter account posted: “Disappointing to see yet another case of netting against our migratory birds. We can only hope that the sand martins are not getting caught.”

They added: “We will be reaching out to North Norfolk District Council to find out more details on this case, as well as to offer advice and support in finding a swift resolution.”

Sarah Butikofer, the leader of North Norfolk District Council, said she was investigating the issue - and was particularly keen to establish the size of the netting and if it met suitable standards.

She said: “I am concerned about what people have brought to our attention. I have asked officers to tell me if the netting which has been used is of the type which was recommended by the RSPB, because I don’t want any birds being trapped.

“But this is a project to protect the coastline, including the low lying settlements of Bacton and Walcott and a balance will need to be struck.

“However, I’m also asking if we’ve covered the absolute minimum area we need to and if there is any chance of moving the netting as early as possible once the work we need to do is done.”

A statement issued by North Norfolk District Council on Friday said: “Netting has been used on parts of the cliffs at Bacton in order to encourage sand martins to nest further along the coast in other suitable habitat.”

Last month, Tesco was criticised after it put netting up over trolleys at its Harford Bridge superstore to stop swallows nesting above them. The criticism led to the removal of the nets.

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