Following the last blog about Cala Homes and the missing Swift bricks, Geraldine Buchanan wrote to Cala Homes expressing her concern about the small number of Swift bricks/nest boxes that they were installing at Kings Barton, Winchester. She received the following reply:
"Good morning Geraldine,
Thank you for raising your concerns with us.
At CALA, we are committed to creating new communities that support and enhance biodiversity, and we take our responsibility for protecting wildlife very seriously. We pledge to achieve net biodiversity gain on all our sites moving forward and work closely with both independent ecologists and local authorities on a habitat and biodiversity strategy for every development. We have worked closely with Hampshire Swifts on other CALA sites within the county and welcome their feedback to explore how we can make improved provisions for swifts at Kings Barton. We have reached out to Hampshire Swifts to request a meeting and look forward to receiving their input on our plans.
Geraldine kindly sent me their email and this was my reply:
"Dear Cala Group / Cala Homes
Your email below to Geraldine Buchanan has been passed on to me. I’d like to correct the many inaccuracies in your email.
“At CALA, we are committed to creating new communities that support and enhance biodiversity,” – so you’re saying that you are leaving it to the house owners?
“and we take our responsibility for protecting wildlife very seriously” – we see no evidence of that whatsoever. What have you done at Kings Barton, Winchester to ‘protect wildlife’? Zero bird bricks installed in the first phase of 423 dwellings. How many bat bricks were installed? How many insect bricks were installed? Have you installed hedgehog highways? It appears to me and others that you are creating an ecological desert.
“We pledge to achieve net biodiversity gain on all our sites moving forward” – this is another meaningless government initiative. Even 10% of zero is still zero. We want you to take positive action by including Swift bricks in your new homes. This will have a hugely positive effect on biodiversity over the full life of the dwellings at a minimal cost. Please google shifting baseline syndrome.
“work closely with both independent ecologists and local authorities on a habitat and biodiversity strategy for every development.” -it's interesting that John Richards (Cala Thames) has only LAST WEEK “instructed our ecologist to undertake an urban bird and bat strategy that we can adopt as best practice across our developments within Thames.” Commendable but why does Cala Group not have this in place already? Installing integral bird bricks at an average rate of one per dwelling is what is needed.
“We have worked closely with Hampshire Swifts on other CALA sites within the county" - that is not true – you have not. On the Alton Brewery site we found it impossible to have a phone conversation with your contract ecologist despite repeated attempts and it took several emails and two sets of comments on the planning application before they increased the number of swift bricks. That is far from ‘working closely.’
“and welcome their feedback to explore how we can make improved provisions for swifts at Kings Barton.” – We gave Cala Homes our advice two years ago and are still waiting for anything to change. For the avoidance of doubt, Hampshire Swifts are asking that you provide an average of one integral Swift brick per dwelling as recommended by the RIBA, many Conservation Groups including the RSPB, and the NHBC. Why are you ignoring the advice of all these organisations? We want Cala to do this across all your new developments, not just in Thames, as a matter of course and without being asked. Will you do that?
“We have reached out to Hampshire Swifts to request a meeting” – That is not true – you have not. For the avoidance of doubt I am happy to attend a meeting at Kings Barton.
“and look forward to receiving their input on our plans” – We have given this and still await your meaningful response.
According to the British Trust for Ornithology Swifts have declined by 58% in just 23 years. That is approximately 100,000 pairs of Swifts that have been lost in just that time and the decline continues at 5% per annum. This is due to loss of nesting sites and the fact that your new homes will never provide a home in which our crevice-nesting birds will ever nest for the duration of the life of the building. You are doing very close to zero as far as I can see for our catastrophically declining biodiversity during a time when biodiversity is declining faster than at any point in the last few million years. This is on your watch and you are standing by doing close to nothing. That is unacceptable. Swift bricks help other birds too like the Red-listed Starlings and House Sparrows and several other crevice-nesting species, and need no maintenance. If you will agree to install Swift bricks in all your new homes at an average rate of one per dwelling we will commend you widely for doing so.
I look forward to hearing from you.