Councillor comment: swift action to help Barnet’s birds

Swifts have declined due to a lack of safe places to nest
By Cllr Simon Radford

Philip Heron, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Philip Heron, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As a new councillor representing East Barnet ward, I have already been working with residents to help solve issues together. However, most case work is akin to firefighting – and it is often only through passing new council initiatives can we do the equivalent of ‘building fire stations’ to structurally tackle issues for all of our residents.

As a committed environmentalist, who is also excited by our new administration’s commitment to working alongside residents to solve issues together (rather than treating our fellow residents as ‘customers’), I was excited to use my first submission as a member of the new Environment & Climate Change Committee to put forward an idea I received from a resident shortly after receiving my council IT equipment!

My fellow resident reached out regarding his worries about the decline in the swift population and to request that the council do what it can to mitigate the sad state of affairs affecting some of Britain’s most beloved birds.

Swifts have declined all across the UK and are now on the Red list of Birds of Conservation Concern, meaning fewer and fewer have been spotted in Barnet arriving back in the spring after spending the winter in Africa.

The RSPB states that a key reason for the decline in the number of swifts is a lack of safe places to nest. This is partly as a result of important nooks and crannies being lost as older buildings are refurbished or demolished. 

I therefore asked that action to help reverse the decline in swifts should form part of the council’s new biodiversity strategy as this is developed. In particular, this could include installing swift boxes on council buildings and using the planning process to require developers to include swift nesting bricks in planning proposals for new developments.

I was happy to receive unanimous support from the committee for this item and to let my fellow resident know of his integral role in changing our policy – alongside support for the establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly to tackle climate change and other important items around improvements to air quality and protecting and enhancing our parks.

It brings me great hope for our future that when we work humbly and collegially alongside citizens, rather than trying to hold them at arm’s length thinking politicians must know best, we can really make a difference in how we deliver for Barnet for years to come. Together.

Dr Simon Radford is a Labour councillor for East Barnet Ward

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