A healthy, sustainable Swift population is reliant on any number of factors, some better understood than others. These can be distilled down to three categories: availability of adequate food supplies in their wintering areas, on migration and at their breeding sites, benevolent weather conditions, especially on migration and the availability of nesting sites upon return to their breeding areas.
As a county-based conservation group we can only influence the latter and so all our efforts are focused on protecting existing nest sites and creating new sites.
Our biggest challenge is to persuade the construction industry to routinely integrate Swift bricks in new housing developments. This could create hundreds of thousands of new nest sites across the county and may represent the only realistic way to adequately replace all the nest sites lost to renovation and building repair over the past few decades, reversing the well-documented population decline observed over the past 23 years.
Although some developers include Swift bricks, the majority don't unless the planning approval they need to proceed with a development includes installation of Swift bricks as a condition of approval. Planning Authorities cannot randomly make up such conditions: instead they need to prove that such a condition passes 6 tests imposed by the government (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/use-of-planning-conditions).
There is a lot of work going on to persuade Planning Authorities to "condition" Swift bricks. One part of that process is to engage with planning professionals and ensure they are fully aware of the issues that impact on our Swifts. The article below was written for the in-house journal of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management by three national experts in the field, John Day (RSPB), Edward Mayer (Swift Conservation) and Dick Newell (Action for Swifts) although we should also acknowledge the influence of Stephen Fitt, an RSPB volunteer whose work has played such a significant role in normalizing the use of Swift bricks in new building developments.
If the information in this article is widely adopted by those working in planning and the construction industry then in years to come we may well look back on this article as representing a turning point in Swift conservation.
Hampshire Swifts has a team of volunteers who review, comment on and track planning applications for new developments across the county with the primary aim of persuading the planners to include a requirement for Swift bricks in each planning approval. We are always looking for people to help; experience is not necessary but we would welcome assistance from anyone with experience of the planning process. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org