Fears are growing that endangered birds’ homes are at threat in Scholes near Holmfirth.
Linda Gill, of St George’s Road, is worried about the future of swifts in the village after the place in which they lived for three months of the year in the rafters of the former St George’s WMC was pulled down.
Linda, a keen bird conservationist who volunteers with the RSPB, said the four new houses which were built in its place last year did not contain space for the around 30 swift pairs who are due to return any moment for three months to rear their young following their annual lengthy trip from Africa where they spend most of the year.
This was despite the inclusion of a planning condition that six swift homes be included in the development due to policy ENV8 of the Regional Spatial Strategy and the aims of the National Planning Policy Framework which states that swift bricks, hollow bricks in which swifts can live, must be installed in the new development.
This was made to try stop the already dwindling 36,000 breeding pairs in the UK from decreasing further. This is in part due to the loss of buildings they use for nesting through refurbishment or demolition for redevelopment.
Linda said: “The swifts had been living in the club for 20 years and it’s now the time where the swifts could come back.
“If they return home to find their nests have gone it could have a really negative impact on them. It would be like one of us going on holiday to find out that our house had been bulldozed.
“To remove their homes is very distressing for them and if they don’t have anywhere to live they will screech and screech. They are already noisy birds as it is.
“It’s important we protect the swifts and it’s just very sad that nothing has been installed sooner to prepare for their arrival.
“I hope speaking out about it makes people aware about their needs.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said builders had not been made aware of the planning condition while building the homes.
He said: “We were informed by a local resident that the nest boxes had not been incorporated into the new development and it appears the builder was not aware of this requirement.
“The builder is now aware that to meet planning obligations the swift boxes must be erected before the houses are first occupied and I have been informed by him that he now has the six swift boxes and they will be erected imminently.
“Swift boxes are now included in new developments in areas where colonies of the birds are known to be present and, where the buildings are suitable for the inclusion of nest boxes for swifts.”
The medium-sized swift is dark and sooty brown all over but often look black against the sky and have long and narrow wings. They are renowned for their piercing, screaming call and can be seen darting around the summer skies in the UK, especially in south England.
They only live in the country for the three summer months. The rest of the time they spend journeying to and from and living in equatorial and sub-equatorial Africa, travelling more than 20,000km each year.
While in the UK swifts like to nest in roof spaces under the eaves of old houses and churches or in artificial boxes that can be fixed to walls or replace a house brick but as house renovations have increased over the years the spaces in which they could nest have reduced. According to an RSPB survey, since the 1990s, the UK swift population has declined by 40%, with just 36,000 remaining pairs.
Most of the time swifts sleep while in flight by shutting down half their brain and continually correcting the wind drift so they wake up where they fall asleep. They only really touch the ground to breed.
They were historically known as the devil bird, possibly because of their inaccessibility, which has led to the creation of folklore around them.