(not satire – it’s the UK today!)
I must admit to having been more than a little puzzled at first as to why Natural England are proposing that nests and eggs of bird species such as robins and starlings will be allowed to be destroyed without the granting of special licences.
This would mean members of the public would be allowed to destroy any nests or eggs they came across – more or less at will.
Natural England’s consultation paper on the subject doesn’t shed much light on the reasons for these quite shocking proposals either – other than stating that these birds can present a “public health and safety” hazard.
There is no explanation of what exactly the public health and safety hazards of robins’ and starlings’ eggs are.
However, after a little investigation into the murky waters of party donations all has now become clear.
Last year government ministers chose Andrew Sells – a Chartered accountant with no experience of ecological or environmental matters – as the new Chair of Natural England.
Sells is a venture capitalist and a major Tory party donor – in 2011 for example he donated £111,250 to the Tories.
OK, so far so corrupt. But why would the Tories want to allow the destruction of robins, starlings, wagtails and other such beautiful birds?
Well, Sells is one of the founders of Linden Homes, a property development business specialising in developing brownfield sites for residential housing.
And what is one of the biggest problems facing property developers when they attempt to develop brownfield sites for residential housing?
Yes, you’ve guessed it – nesting birds:
All wild birds, their nests and young are protected throughout England and Wales by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is illegal to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or damage or destroy the nest or eggs of breeding birds.
If nests, whether completed or in the process of being built, are found on site, any works with the potential to damage or destroy the nest, eggs or young birds, must stop until the birds have completed breeding.
Birds may nest on machinery or scaffolding and other temporary site structures. If this happens the equipment cannot be used until the birds have finished nesting and such areas may need to be sealed off to prevent disturbance.
Breaking the law can lead to fines of up to £5000 per offence and potential prison sentences of up to six months. Vehicles implicated in an offence can be compounded and both the company, and/or the individual(s) concerned, can be held liable.
Obviously, removing the protection of eggs and nests of nesting birds would save developers a lot of time and money.
And it just so happens that property developers are some of the Tory Party’s biggest donors.
The consultation process ends tomorrow and the Tories are obviously hoping that most people will not make the connection between their donors and Natural England’s proposals.
So best keep it to ourselves then.
UPDATE: here’s my response to Natural England’s attempts to defend their plans:
How Natural England are lying about their plans to allow destruction of robin nests
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