Norfolk Biodiversity

A swift response to wildlife needs

Our Natural Environment Team Ecologist Ed Stocker and Principal Planner Neil Campbell at Norfolk County Council have recently been working closely with NPS architect Barry Andrews and The Ecology Consultancy to create exciting penthouse accommodation for swifts and other wildlife as part of the renovation of the new Thetford Bus Interchange (see below).

The early 19th century Grade II Listed former warehouse, was in a poor state of repair before it was identified as a potential part of the new bus interchange for Thetford.

Thetford bus station site prior to development (Credited to Thetford and Brandon Times)

Thetford bus station site prior to development (Credited to Thetford and Brandon Times)

The resulting project undertaken by NPS Property Consultants Ltd. with consultation from our Community and Environmental Services (CES) department, have developed a scheme that meets all the requirements of planning law, not to mention those of our feathered friends.

Proposed new Thetford bus interchange (Credited to LSI Architects)

Proposed new Thetford bus interchange (Credited to LSI Architects)

Lots of planning issues had to be considered by the architects including listed building consent, planning regulations, the conservation area it is located within and the local authority’s duties to protect trees and biodiversity. Ken Hamilton, our Senior Historic Environment Officer was also on hand to advise on planning issues relating to listed buildings and archaeology.

Working together ensured the best possible design could be achieved that considered all the planning regulations and created new nesting habitats for swifts and bats as an integral part of the roofing design. Access for bats was retained, while eight new swift boxes could be installed.

Common Swift (Credited to Kostya Pazyuk)

Common Swift (Credited to Kostya Pazyuk)

Most people are aware that bats are protected and have to be considered in planning applications, but many people would not be aware that swifts are struggling or that they are a ‘priority species for conservation’ in the UK.

A major factor effecting swifts is the loss of established nesting sites. Swifts tend to nest in old buildings. However, these are being modernised more and more frequently, as shown in the bus interchange case. Since swifts pair for life and return to the same nesting site each year, they can sometimes find themselves homeless! Therefore, it is important that the swifts’ habitats are not neglected in such instances.

Hence, this scheme will be providing brand new accommodation for the birds, helping towards our Norfolk targets in the Swift Biodiversity Action Plan, co-ordinated by the CES Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership (see here for more details).

33ft Swift Nesting Tower in Cambridge (Credited to Geoff Robinson)

Swift Nesting Tower built in Cambridge in 2011 (Credited to Geoff Robinson)

These are (as you may have guessed):

  • To maintain 100% of the current distribution of swifts in Norfolk.
  • To increase the distribution of swifts across Norfolk, with particular emphasis on areas of new development, derelict sites that are being redeveloped, or where retrofitting of existing properties is being carried out.

However, this is not just the aims in Norfolk. Across the border in Cambridgeshire, Cambridge City Council have built a thirty-three feet steel tower filled with 200 colourful swift nest boxes to provide homes for swifts. More information is available here.

If you know a building where swifts nest or where there is potential for swift boxes in Norfolk, we would love to hear from you. Please email Ed Stocker at:

Watch this space for an update on swifts and nesting boxes in the near future!

Swift (Credited to David Norman)

Keep an eye out, so we can take swift action (Credited to David Norman)


About Norfolk Biodiversity

The Environment Team at Norfolk County Council

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2015 by in Birds, Norfolk's Wildlife and tagged , , , , .

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