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Petition launched to save sand martins, as chicks start fledging

PUBLISHED: 13:59 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:59 03 July 2019

Sand martin chicks have started fledging in Bacton. Pictures: Maggie Wilcox

Sand martin chicks have started fledging in Bacton. Pictures: Maggie Wilcox

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A petition has been launched by bird-lovers to secure the future of the Bacton sand martins.

Sand martin chicks have started fledging in Bacton. Pictures: Maggie WilcoxSand martin chicks have started fledging in Bacton. Pictures: Maggie Wilcox

It comes as sand martin chicks have started to fledge at the site in north Norfolk where netting was removed following a public outcry.

The nets were installed at Bacton by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) as part of a project to protect homes and the Bacton Gas Terminal from coastal erosion.

But, as they were obstructing the birds' nests, they were removed following protests.

NNDC said its intention was "always to protect the wildlife" and to prevent the birds from nesting in that one location.

Magge Wilcox has launched a petition to secure the future of Bacton's sand martins. Pictures: Maggie WilcoxMagge Wilcox has launched a petition to secure the future of Bacton's sand martins. Pictures: Maggie Wilcox

A Facebook group, Save our Bacton Sand Martins, was created and attracted more than 2,000 members, and the RSPB warned there was a risk of birds dying if they got stuck.

As a result, the upper levels of netting were removed.

Wildlife campaigner Maggie Wilcox, from Overstrand, shot a video of the chicks fledging.

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She said: "I had mixed feelings. Obviously, it was wonderful to see them fledging. About five of the chicks were putting their heads out from that one nest hole.

"But there was also concern about what is going to happen next year, when this particular site will be buried under tonnes of sand.

"We are hoping that NNDC can put in an artificial sand martin bank, which was one of the suggestions made by the RSPB earlier in the year."

She has launched a petition at chng.it/tNjY6mDh4z to get NNDC and partners to release breeding bird surveys and to fund artificial sand martin banks.

The netting drew the ire of many nature lovers, including TV naturalist Chris Packham, who called it an "atrocity".

He has since hailed the fledging chicks as a "triumph of public will".

The £21m Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Sandscaping Scheme will see 1.8 million cubic metres of sand pumped onto the beaches to protect the coastline - and the Bacton Gas Terminal - from erosion.

A large ship, known as a spud leg barge, is currently offshore at Bacton digging the trench necessary to build the new outfall for the gas terminal.

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