Council forced to remove netting set up to prevent sand martins nesting in cliffs

A local council will partially remove netting on cliffs set up with the intention of preventing migrating sand martins from nesting.

North Norfolk District Council placed the material over more than one kilometre of cliffs at Bacton, around 20 miles north of Great Yarmouth earlier this week.

The authority's intention was to prevent the birds from setting up homes in the sandy banks, in a bid to safeguard homes and a nearby gas terminal from coastal erosion. It says it took advice from Natural England and the RSPB before embarking on the project.

But the netting has caused outrage among conservationists, with video appearing online of birds becoming entangled in the nets.

The RSPB said the netting does not follow its guidance and pushed the authority to remove it as soon as possible. The organisation said it had recommended using material without gaps in to prevent birds from becoming entangled and that this advice was not followed.

It told ITV News the authority was made aware the use of the netting should be seen as a "last resort" and not extend more than seven metres high, to allow the birds space to nest and breed.

North Norfolk District Council, which has been forced to set up a dedicated option on its telephone system to deal with enquiries about the netting, said on Tuesday it "will remove the upper levels of the netting," following talks with the RSPB and Natural England.

It added: "Minimum levels will be retained to assist in progressing with this critical project to protect people’s homes and national infrastructure.

"Following this, ongoing discussions will take place between NNDC and the RSPB about the material to be used on the lower section of cliff to allow this to happen."

Last month, a developer in Guildford was forced to apologise after it placed netting over trees at a dormant building plot.

On Monday Communities Secretary James Brokenshire wrote to leading developers reminding them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of projects on local wildlife and the need to take action to protect habitats.

A parliamentary petition to make netting hedgerows to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence has more than 254,000 signatures. Whilst another calling for legal protection to swallow, swift and martin nest sites, not just their active nests, has more than 35,000 signatures.