New Stevenage neighbourhood nature plan will see new homes for endangered swifts.

Stevenage Borough Council will provide funding to install nesting boxes for swifts as part of its social housing renovation. The plan, which will see over 70 boxes installed over a five-year period, forms part of Stevenage’s Biodiversity Action Plan that the Council developed in partnership with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The plan helps to ensure that wildlife is considered in new development and renovation.

Councillor Jeannette Thomas, Executive Member for Housing, Health and Older People, commented: “As well as striving to provide excellent homes for residents through our housing development programme and our £45m Major Refurbishment Contract, our investment to help boost the swift population as part of our Biodiversity Plan honours our commitment to look after all our town’s occupants. I hope that in providing these boxes we can help reverse the decline of these popular birds, and they can once again thrive throughout our town.”

The work will be carried out by construction company Mulalley who are installing the boxes free of charge. So far, Mulalley have fitted fiveboxes in the north of the town to enable the existing breeding swift population to spread.

Bruce Benson, Mulalley Operations Director said, “Mulalley is pleased to be working in partnership with the Council and Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to install these much needed swift boxes, which we hope will assist in increasing their population which has seen a dramatic decline over recent years.”

Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, has been advising Mulalley and the Council on the best places to site the boxes. He says: “These iconic birds have been suffering great losses, so we’re thrilled that Stevenage Borough Council is ready to take action for swifts. The existing populations in Stevenage will greatly benefit from these nest boxes. We are very grateful to Stevenage Borough Council for funding the boxes and to Mulalley for kindly providing their help free of charge.”

Swifts have seen a drastic decline in populations – they have decreased by 53% between 1995 and 2016 – which is mainly due to a loss of suitable nesting places. In the past, buildings would have open eaves, loose tiles and holes in the walls, all of which provided both nesting and roosting habitats for bats and birds. Modern construction techniques are leaving eaves sealed, tiles fitted without gaps and walls built with no holes. Renovation works on older buildings are often removing these features needed by swifts, resulting in devastating effects on their populations. The Trust is working with councils and community groups across Hertfordshire to improve and create habitats for swifts and other wildlife.