North Berwick Tesco refuses to remove netting preventing red listed house martins from nesting, sparking community anger

An East Lothian Tesco store is coming under fire after refusing to obey calls from the local community to remove netting which stops endangered birds from returning to their nests – and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham has lent his voice to their campaign.

By Anna Bryan
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 12:52 pm

The netting, which was installed last month at the Tesco store on Tantallon Road in North Berwick, was intended to stop house martins who had been nesting in the roof for several years from returning.

Campaigners believe that the red-listed endangered birds could stand to lose around 200 chicks due to the netting. They are also concerned that the house martins could attempt to get behind the netting, which could cause them to become trapped or injured.

Chris Packham, wildlife TV presenter, has now joined locals in criticising the store. On Twitter, he shared a Change.org petition calling for Tesco to remove the nets, and wrote: “We are in a climate and ecological emergency . Every year we deal with this kind of netting over breeding sites , trees and hedgerows for our visiting and native birds. @Tesco please rethink your action and remove the netting.”

Tesco representatives claimed that the action was a “safety and hygiene measure” taken on the basis of “sustained customer feedback about bird droppings”. However, a recent freedom of information request revealed that no record of customer complaints exists.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) criticised Tesco, and said: “We are disappointed to hear house martins won’t be getting a second chance at the Tesco North Berwick store this year and the nets aren’t coming down, despite an outpouring of support for these threatened birds”.

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An RSPB wildlife team issued advice in mid-March, suggesting store employees remove the netting and put boards below the nests to catch droppings which solved a similar ’safety and hygiene’ issue in another Tesco store in 2019. However, the store have not followed this guidance.

A Tesco store in North Berwick has sparked community anger, after nets were put up to stop endangered birds from nesting.

Tesco representatives attended a meeting with community representatives and bird charities at the end of March, however, campaigners say they failed to attend a follow-up meeting.

Angela Paterson, who represented local campaigners at the meeting, said: “Whilst we were prepared to be constructive and work with them to find a suitable solution, they did not offer any compromise.

"The community are happy to support a nesting campaign to encourage the birds to find alternative homes - but this may take a year to establish and the damage will have been done.”

Jacq Cottrell of the East Lothian Greens, who are supporting the campaign to remove the netting, said: “I really can’t understand why Tesco is refusing to compromise on this, when we have offered them a solution that is cheap, quick and easy to implement.”

Campaigners are now planning to boycott Tesco stores until the nets come down.

House martins were recently moved to the Birds of Conservation Concern Red list, which means they are significantly under threat.

A Tesco Spokesperson said: “Like members of the community in North Berwick, we want to ensure the birds around our store can thrive, while looking after the health and safety of our customers and colleagues.

"The netting was installed as a hygiene measure to prevent bird droppings falling onto the customer area below.

"We’re in the process of installing 30 specialist nesting boxes purchased from RSPB on the North elevation of the store.

"The nests are being installed along with additional overhanging shelving above, intended to shield the nests and to greatly increase the chance of establishing a permanent nesting site for the birds.”

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