Tesco said the nets were placed after complaints about bird droppings. The company said that droppings from the birds were falling on supermarket trolleys and causing a health hazard. It added that it had cleared the back of the store for the swallows to nest instead. A high-pressure water spray was used to remove old nests, then put up anti-bird netting to keep the swallows from returning.
According to wildlife experts, the birds returned to the same spot year after year.
Chris Skinner, a local conservationist, said swallows had nested on the site for the past six years. He met with the store managers and persuaded them to remove the nets. He said: ‘It is terrific result, it’s lovely to have a good news story.’
In Guildford, Surrey, a developer has been criticised for covering 11 trees with nets. On twitter the author Philip Pullman described them as ‘ugly and wicked and destructive’.
The developer Sladen Estates says it was following correct advice on putting the nets over the trees, which it intends to cut down to accommodate a development of 191 homes. Developers are banned from damaging bird nests so sometimes net trees off during the nesting season.
The nets have now been removed. The charity Wildlife Aid Foundation said the nets were a hazard to birds and described them as ‘incredibly dangerous, even on the outside, with animals able to get their feet stuck.’
The RSPB said it urged developers do carry out such tree removal work outside the breeding season and added that while such action was legal while birds were not nesting, it should done properly to minimise the risks to wildlife.
Such conflict between birds and developers and businesses are common. In 2004, the deaths of three robins at Wyevale Garden Centre in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, sparked outrage. The centre hired a pest control company to kill an adult robin and two chicks because they were flying around the cafeteria.
Wyevale argued they posed a health hazard and it was legally required to comply with the Food Safety Act 1990.
The action was condemned by animal welfare charities. The RSPB called the action ‘heavy-handed’ and a spokesman at the time added: ‘Garden centres should be promoting an interest in wildlife in the garden. They have a duty to go the extra yard.’ The RSPCA said that any risk that the robins posed to public health would have been ‘vanishingly small’.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a licence to allow a pest control company to kill the birds but subsequently ordered an inquiry into the decision.