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Developer Promises to Protect ‘Red List’ Skylarks on Construction Site

Published on: 15 May, 2021
Updated on: 17 May, 2021

Berkeley Homes sign goes up in front of former Effingham Lodge farmland.

By Chris Dick

Developer Berkeley Homes has pledged to protect the singing skylarks now ground-nesting on Effingham Lodge Farm’s grasslands, the projected site of the new Howard school and 159 houses.

Reassurance came from BH director David Gilchrist, in answer to a warning-cum-appeal from the parish council. “We are aware there may be ground-nesting birds on site,” he said.

“Our ecologist will be present full-time from when the initial works commence and any works will be strictly in accordance with his recommendations.”

Bob Holmes, the BH project director, said any enabling work would be kept away from possible nesting sites and the ecologist would advise on any grass-cutting.

Ground nesting skylark singing. Photo Malcolm Fincham

Residents have reported the unmistakable singing birds along lower Road, Effingham Common Road and the footpath along the Vineries.

The council warned the RSPB had confirmed the presence of the birds, on their endangered “red list”, and they raise several broods between April and August. They pointed out that a key piece of evidence at the Howard of Effingham/Berkeley Homes appeal concerned loss of habitat and an incident was reported by the Guildford Dragon (see: Complaints of Underhand Tactics Made at Effingham Planning Hearing).

Cllr Ian Symes

Any intentional interference with nesting birds is an offence under wildlife and countryside legislation and must be reported to the police. Effingham residents have been asked to keep close watch and photograph any on-site activities they think questionable.

Parish council chairman Ian Symes said: “The song of the skylark signals the beginning of summer. They used to be common but they’re now endangered. I do hope Berkeley Homes and the Howard of Effingham school allow them one final breeding season on the Farm.”

Cllr Liz Hogger

Liz Hogger, Effingham’s long-term Lib Dem borough councillor, said: “I’m very pleased the parish council drew attention to this.

“The new school, housing and playing fields will inevitably have a damaging effect on wildlife, so Berkeley Homes need to remember they must do their best to protect the skylarks and other wildlife for as long as possible before actual construction gets under way.”

Jack Thompson, an RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “The songs of skylark high in the sky typify the UK countryside and the farmland that support this incredible species.

“Unfortunately they have suffered severe population declines, with a 63% drop from 1967 to 2018. As such, the skylark is a red-listed species under the UK Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC).

“A lack of suitable breeding habitat through agricultural intensification is a major factor in the skylark’s decline, limiting its distribution to a much smaller pool of available sites. Housing development on greenfield sites where these amazing species reside will further impact populations of skylarks.

“We must ensure these habitats are bigger, better and more joined-up to achieve biodiversity targets set for 2030. This begins with safeguarding existing important sites; and protecting incredible birds such as the red-listed skylark.”

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Responses to Developer Promises to Protect ‘Red List’ Skylarks on Construction Site

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    May 16, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    The developer promises to protect the skylarks? That must mean that they have decided not to develop the site. Nothing else will “protect” the birds.

    Building hundreds of houses on their habitat would have only one outcome. The skylarks will go and never come back.

  2. Helena Lawrence Reply

    May 17, 2021 at 11:02 am

    I very much welcome the speed in which Effingham Parish Council have dealt with this concerning situation.

    Skylarks are known to nest on the land and have done for many years with notices up at Effingham Common also warning local dog walkers of their locality.

    I, and many others, would like to see that the works are completely held off until their nesting season is over. One would hope the ecologist due to be on site has no association with Berkeley Homes and that no grass cuttings of any kind should really be happening while skylarks are known to be in the vicinity. Let’s hope Berkeley Homes really do take this seriously and refrain from any works on site until September when the nesting season finishes.

    There has been no update from Berkeley Homes as to their reason for their very delayed planning permission to Guildford Borough Council which was supposedly being submitted in March.

    Heléna Lawrence is the founder of the campaign “Say No To Berkeley Homes”

  3. Roger Adams Reply

    May 18, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Berkeley Homes may not disturb nesting birds this year but where are the birds going to nest in coming years? With nesting sites no longer available on the Effingham Lodge Farm field, the residents of Effingham will not be able to enjoy the tweeting from on high in future years. This whole development should never have been allowed.

  4. John Perkins Reply

    May 18, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    When contacting the police with a complaint about disturbance of nesting birds it is necessary to know two things.

    First, unless you can provide proof the police will take no action.

    Second, it is not the responsibility of the contractor to ensure no birds are disturbed, but the owner. If the owner is an organisation rather than an individual, prosecution might prove difficult.

    GBC ought to automatically limit permission to outside of the nesting season.

  5. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 19, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Of course, there is another way of protecting both the birds and the environment – just stop all the building.

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