North Berwick Tesco refuses to remove nets preventing red-listed house swallows from nesting, sparking community anger
The netting, which was installed last month in the Tesco store on Tantallon Road in North Berwick, was intended to prevent house swallows which had been nesting in the roof for several years from returning.
Activists believe the Red Listed endangered birds could lose around 200 chicks to the net. They also worry that house swifts will try to get behind the net, which could get them stuck or injured.
Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham has now joined locals in criticizing the store. On Twitter, he shared a Change.org petition calling on Tesco to remove the mosquito nets and wrote: “We are in a climate and ecological emergency. Every year we process this type of netting over breeding sites, trees and hedgerows for our visiting and native birds. @Tesco please rethink your action and remove the net.
Tesco representatives claimed the action was a ‘safety and hygiene measure’ taken on the basis of ‘sustained customer feedback on bird droppings’. However, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that there is no customer complaint log.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) criticized Tesco and said: “We are disappointed to hear that house swallows will not be given a second chance at the Tesco North Berwick store this year and the nets are not coming down , despite an outpouring of support for these endangered birds.”
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An RSPB wildlife team issued advice in mid-March, suggesting store workers remove netting and place boards under nests to catch droppings, which solved a similar ‘safety and security’ issue. ‘hygiene’ in another Tesco store in 2019. However, the store did not follow this guidance.
Tesco representatives attended a meeting with community representatives and bird charities in late March, but campaigners said they did not attend a follow-up meeting.
Angela Paterson, who represented local activists at the meeting, said: “While we were ready to be constructive and work with them to find a suitable solution, they offered no compromise.
“The community is happy to support a nesting campaign to encourage the birds to find other homes – but it can take a year to become established and the damage will have been done.”
Jacq Cottrell of East Lothian Greens, who are supporting the campaign to remove the net, said: ‘I really don’t understand why Tesco refuses to compromise on this, when we have offered them a cheap, quick and easy solution to implement.”
Campaigners are now planning to boycott Tesco stores until the nets drop.
House swallows have recently been placed on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, meaning they are significantly threatened.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Like members of the North Berwick community, we want to make sure the birds around our store can thrive, while looking out for the health and safety of our customers and colleagues.
“The netting was installed as a hygiene measure to prevent bird droppings from falling onto the customer area below.
“We are in the process of installing 30 specialist nesting boxes purchased from the RSPB on the north elevation of the store.
“The nests are installed with additional overhanging shelves above, intended to protect the nests and greatly increase the chances of establishing a permanent nesting site for the birds.”