Friday, 3 May 2019

Campaign to change the law to ensure every new house has 'Swift bricks' > encouraging results

Back in February, the 38 Degrees campaigning group put a petition out to encourage us all to do our bit to give swifts a home:
Futures Forum: Campaign to change the law to ensure every new house has 'Swift bricks'
Here's the latest email from Norman Pasley, who created the Save our Swifts campaign:

Dear friends,

Thank you for your responses to my email dated 16 April.

Since then about another thousand of you - increasing the total to over 128,000 - have signed up for the petition that the government legislates that all UK house builders shall install Swift bricks in all new-build homes, and give incentives for retrofitting nest boxes on older properties.

Your responses have been encouraging.

Bob Dickson from New Wortley (Leeds) writes: “Thanks for your email. At its last meeting, the Board of the New Wortley Housing Association agreed that swift bricks will be fitted to all properties in our current development, and our architects have enthusiastically taken this into the designs. Best wishes, Bob Dickson, Chair, NWHA”

Thanks Bob. What can be better than that? That’s evidence of the developer doing the right thing!

Has anyone else experienced a house builder agreeing to one swift brick per property?

Rose Parkhouse of Chepstow Swifts writes: “‘Great campaign Norman! We're a small Swift group in Chepstow, RSPB trained last year. We survey for nest sites in the town and have just written to Barratt’s, who are due to build a new estate here, about increasing the number of swift bricks in the new buildings.

“Barratt Homes do install some swift bricks but nothing like one in every building! For example, the plans for the Chepstow development show 29 swift bricks in 348 homes. This particular development is on a site where old factory buildings with known swift nests have been demolished (not by Barratt’s but by previous industrial owners) so it's a key site and we're going to push hard for a lot more swift bricks there.

“We've learnt masses about swifts in the last year since our training, and found nest sites around the town that we didn't know about before. The Glamorgan Swift Group have been a brilliant help and I've arranged for one of them, Alan Rosney to do a public talk for us through Gwent Wildlife Trust on 20th of this month - hoping to spread the word further locally!”

My question is: how costly can it be for Barratt’s to supply each house with a swift bricks? And how costly in reputational terms not to?

Sarah Hellings Smith in North Berwick writes: “In our local Tesco in North Berwick, as I was walking to the outside entrance, I heard cheeping, and looked up and saw several nests in the hollows created by the large size corrugated roofing overhanging the entrance . I spoke to customer services who were aware and seemed very happy about the birds. I was worried that somebody might complain about the possibility of droppings but that does not seem to be the case.

(I suggested that Tesco might advertise ‘Tesco looking after everybody’s families’.)

“It would seem that that the profile of this particular industrial large corrugated iron roof provides enough space in the dips to give the birds somewhere to nest : so this might be worth bearing in mind when asking companies to help - especially since it would involve no extra cost.”
Dick Newell set up and runs the blog called Action for Swifts. His blog is: http://actionforswifts.blogspot.com/ 

Edward Mayer runs the Swift-Conservation website which again has lots of useful information and links on it: https://swift-conservation.org/

Tim Norriss of Hampshire Swifts comments: “Well done with the petition. I would definitely send to Michael Gove. Urban biodiversity is in freefall due to current building regs and requirements for more air-tight homes to reduce CO2 emissions. The fixing of upvc fascias and soffits on older homes is also having a large effect. We need to be aiming for an average of one swift brick per property as proposed by the RIBA. There are lots of different types available but it’s best if they use one of the ones mentioned in Dick’s leaflet Swift Bricks V5 or his new Model S attached. Other species such as House Sparrows and smaller birds like blue tits, great tits and wrens will also use the boxes.

“Sarah Roberts has shown that house buyers are not negatively affected to buying if swift bricks are included in houses as house-builders would have you believe. This is purely a matter of economics ...“

Tim believes legislation is essential and that is what this campaign is about.

Some people are unhappy with plastic swift bricks. I agree most single-use plastic is a menace, bought today and thrown away tomorrow. However, I feel more tolerant of a designed bird box installed in a building that may do its job for swifts for 50 or 100 years.

Nest bricks are available in a variety of materials; see the Action for Swifts website for example (above). Some people have asked for a terracotta brick to be shown on the 38 Degrees website; I’m working on this.

Please continue with your personal and group campaigns to support Swifts, wherever you are. All of your stories will give extra weight to the petition. Where house builders are doing little or nothing for swifts, please put fingers to keyboards and ask them why. Ask them: why do you risk reputational damage for the cost of a swift box?

My new nest boxes, fitted last week, are ready for occupation. Hopefully my call player will attract new swifts to Warsash in the next few days!

Best wishes for now


Unknown said...

Any encouragement is welcome, please do carry on and we should succeed in helping swifts everywhere. I do not think it is a hinderness for any architect to incorporate such a special brick. Thank you, erikabulow@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

For the first time in many a year our swifts have not returned, they had natural nesting sites in old houses so can only assume they didn’t make it! We miss our swifts “swifting” here in Watlington Oxford

Brian said...

Please carry on - developers are only interested in their profits and so legislation is needed to enforce the insertion of at least one swift brick per new house.

LouBen said...

Well done on the petition, great number of signatures. I am a volunteer with the RSPB trying to encourage Local Authorities in Greater Manchester to Condition the inclusion of Swift Bricks (Which also suit House Sparrows) in all larger developments. I have had a receptive audience, however, the reality it this still only happens in a very small minority of builds. Yet it helps LA’s hit their targets for net gain, it helps builders to gain environmental credits and it’s pretty inexpensive. The RSPB Swift brick catalogue lists all the different Bricks available. There is also the new Model S Swift Brick from Action for Swifts. Once a Swifts nest is destroyed it is lost for ever and Swifts are 100% nest site faithful, it’s imperative that we provide them with new homes if we are to reverse the population declines. We are very pleased you have started this petition and fully support your efforts. Louise Bentley

Freeasabird said...

I have been knocking on doors of houses who are undergoing loft extensions and advising them about swifts and asking them if they could
consider installing a swift brick or box. I also give them the Swift Conservation info card. So far, I've been pleased with the polite responses and can only hope that some people do go ahead and install one. We have to do all we can to help our wonderful, but sadly declining, wildlife.

Anonymous said...

I recently bought a 'swift brick' and as yet have not installed it. To save me the potential grief of installing it in a wall I am wondering it it could be securely placed on a slightly sloping roof ? [The roof is from the second floor, so there is some, but not much, wind protection from the wall of the third floor]

Derek said...

This is a great idea, even profit hungry home builders can get involved with minimal expense
we need urgent action to restore our disappearing wildlife.

Anonymous said...

a lot of swifts and other small birds are being trapped in Egypt using cheap nets sold from Chins and then being sold to restaurants as "delicacies" They are also trapped and shot by big brave hunters in places like Malta and Cyprus. Maybe we should address this decimation of birds by refusing to trade with or go on holiday to these places until they clean up their act. Soon no birds at all will be returning to the UK.

jacqueline said...

This is a brilliant campaign ❤️❤️

Valerie Alford said...

The comment from Annonymous on 19th May 2019 is also what I have heard is a fact. No one can disbelieve it. What can we do to stop this horrendous trade. I expect to see Swifts zooming around the trees as usual on summer evenings, I am so relieved when I see them arrive from across the deserts which must be a very tiring journey. This year 2019 I have seen three. THAT IS ALL. Then I am given the
awful news about the Chinese and their nets trade with Egypt. HAS ANYONE SEEN MORE SWIFTS?

steffie7 said...

So far, this year, I haven't seen a single swift. It is a cause of great concern. I have seen a few straggling swallows. I know they are being captured and eaten by the Chinese and sold to restaurants. The task of saying them, like so many similar projects, seems daunting and monumental, especially where wealthy people are willing to pay vast sums of money to have them of their plates... Has anyone seen any swifts this year?

Beekeepingman said...

I was watching swifts in Totnes last week what wonderful sight and sound. However we have had a small colony of swifts for many years in old properties on the harbour in Porthmadog but sadly this year there are none. We have also had several swallows nesting in our outbuilding for the last few year but again sadly none this year. The same applies for house martins. Very worrying

Lrg said...

Crowds of swifts used to come to my area every year when we first came, nesting in the eves or our house and the neighbours' houses [1990s], now there are only a handful. The houses are the same, the roofs and eves are the same, so I think there must be some other reason why there are so few.

I do notice that there are far less airborne insects, which is what they eat, so I think there should be a focus on that. Nowadays I can have all the lights on and windows open on a summer evening and virtually no insects fly in. If we could sort this out then birds would have a lot more to eat.

Unknown said...

I live in what was built as a new house, the builders left a gap were the flashing joins my roof to the neighbours. Every year we have birds nesting in our loft. Every year I marvel at the great flocks of swifts as the cluster together to swish and dive through the air together over our village. Unwhitting they builders created a whole new habitat for so many beautiful birds so I'm all for creating swift bricks in properties. Let's get really green & build every new property with sola panels too!

Unknown said...

I wish someone was making swift boxes at a price I can afford then I would put two up under my eves, and if I do, I know others will get them too💪💪💪

Colin Gilbey said...

May I suggest that the demise of so many streams and ponds and the long period of dry weather during the nesting season have much to do with the demise of swifts and swallows. These birds build with mud which has not been available. Climate and farming methods, filling in ditches and ponds is a disaster for all wildlife. Profit today and sod tomorrow - what a world we are creating!