Plans which could shift a rare bird colony from the Tyne Bridge have ruffled feathers among nature lovers.
Gainford Hotels, which owns the Vermont Aparthotel and the Aveika bar beneath the bridge, has submitted plans to install anti-bird netting and an electrified surface in a bid to stop kittiwakes nesting on the Tyne Bridge tower and around the two venues.
The firm behind the application claim the move would ‘create a safer more hygienic area’ under the bridge for pedestrians – but a number of bird lovers have already started preparing their objections.
The kittiwake colony spread along the Tyne is the only inland nesting site for the birds in the country, and this week the RSPB reclassified the birds as among the most at risk in the UK.
James Littlewood, a director of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, has called for the public to object to the scheme.
He added: “The Tyne Kittiwakes are local celebrities, they attract people to the Quayside to watch them and we know one visitor requested a hotel room overlooking the birds so they could photograph them.
“They are loved by many people for the drama and wilderness they bring to the city each summer, kittiwakes around the UK are declining and so the successful Tyneside population is important.”
It is believed there are around 100 nesting pairs that use the bridge, with more birds nesting on the Baltic gallery, in Gateshead Quayside.
Mr Littlewood added: “Preventing Kittiwakes from nesting on a building does not solve the problem – they simply move onto a building nearby creating a problem for someone else.
“Indeed the reason that so many nest on the Tyne Bridge is because they were moved from other buildings without any thought as to where they would go.”
It is understood the hotel have power washed the tower to remove some of the muck from the structure though Newcastle City Council said no planning permission was required.
Documents submitted to the council by Gainsford Hotels said: “Following discussions with council representatives and specialists, it has been deemed necessary to reduce the amount of bird nesting activity on the south tower of the bridge.
“The purpose of this proposal is to create a safer and more hygienic area under the tower for pedestrians and businesses during the main nesting season of the kittiwakes.”
It is understood a variety of groups plan to object to the proposals.
Helen Quayle, the RSPB’s marine conservation officer for the North East, said: “We sympathise that the kittiwakes are noisy and can cause mess, but they are only here for a short time whist they breed, between March and August.
“The kittiwakes along the Tyne nest on man-made structures and over time as these have been demolished or access has been prevented (i.e. through netting) with the consequence of the birds have shifting from one building to another. This does not represent a long-term solution for people or the birds.
“Preventing access to kittiwake nest sites requires careful consideration to ensure that the method used is fit for purpose and thought is given to where displaced birds will settle.”
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson confirmed the application includes bird netting, angled sill plates and an electric shock systems, as well as a listed building application.
A statement said: “These applications are currently being assessed.
“Ownership of the Tyne Bridge Tower for these applications is in the council’s ownership.
“If any alterations have already been installed, these have been done so prior to the determination of the applications.”
Gainford Hotels has yet to provide a comment.
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