News archive

July 2016

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Swift Emergency in Enfield

Swift Emergency in Enfield

We have received a cry of help to try and save this Swift colony in Southgate. London's Swifts are in real trouble as new buildings and renovations are making no provision for nesting Swifts and they are losing their nest sites.

Even a very brief two-line email or online comment is valuable. Swifts are now Amber-listed Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK.
If anyone can urgently go and look at this site for swifts, please let them know your sightings.

Planning Application 16/01578/FUL for Shepcot House, 119 Cowper Gardens, Southgate, N14.

The details in their email are reproduced below:-

Last week, I learned through Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation that local Enfield resident, Andy Potter, has discovered that a large colony of swifts is facing eradication by a planning application for redevelopment of a huge site in a planning application currently before Enfield Council.

I would like to ask if your committee and members of your RSPB NE London Local Group could help save the swift colony in the building scheduled for demolition? This needs urgent action as the planning application process is well under way and swifts will only be here for two or three more weeks.

In the first instance, could you put out a call to your members to see if anyone can go and look at this colony, take pictures, videos and record lists of swift sightings there?

This is an ideal moment as the first two weeks in July are a time of maximum swift numbers in our skies and a prime fortnight for swift-prospecting activity for nesting sites for next year, as you know. It is urgent as this may be the last time that we can record activity at this colony and we need all the data we can gather to try and urge the council to take safeguarding/remedial/mitigation action. This could be the last chance we have to gather evidence of the swifts' presence at this site and I would think that all records will be valuable.

We at the Central London Local Group have put the following message out to members. Would you be able to put out a call for help to your members?

Enfield Swift Emergency
A swift enthusiast has alerted us to the fact that a huge development in the Borough of Enfield is going to destroy a colony of swifts - reportedly the only one for quite some distance around. The large swift colony (at least 20 birds) is at Shepcot House, 119 Cowper Gardens, Southgate, N14.
The proposal submitted to Enfield Council is for:
Demolition of Shepcot House, Oakwood Lodge, Beardow Grove, Coverack Close and garages rear of Lousada Lodge and phased redevelopment of site involving construction of new road to provide 412 residential units comprising 239 flats and maisonettes (109 x 1-bed, 116 x 2-bed, 14 x 3-bed) and 173 houses (85 x 2-bed, 74 x 3-bed, 14 x 4-bed) within a mix of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9-storey buildings, erection of a nursery and community building (Class D1), construction of an energy centre, formation of play space including play area at Cowper Gardens open space and provision of 330 surface and undercroft car parking spaces.

Please would NE London members write to Enfield Council, and copy the local councillors and the biodiversity officer, to ask that the council protect this swift colony and take mitigation measures by requiring that

(a) works be phased so as to enable protection of the colony;

(b) that no works should be done to disturb birds during any breeding season;

(c) very importantly, that mitigation measures must be put in place in the new development - ie the phased provision of new nest sites in the form of swift bricks;

(d) that a condition should be imposed on any planning consent granted requiring the protection of the colony and the implementation of full mitigation measures to safeguard the colony's survival into the future including the installation of swift bricks;

and that the full and active advice of the Enfield borough ecologist, Swift Conservation ( and RSPB Species Recovery swift experts is taken by the council.
Also, that advice should immediately and urgently be sought by the council, and monitoring of the swift colony be started during this swift season (now until the swifts leave in August) and continued in subsequent breeding seasons (essentailly May, June and July).

The link to the planning application is:
The application refernce number is: 16/01578/FUL

Anyone may write during public consultations on planning applications. Comments on material matters (of which this is one) may be made at any time before the planning decison is made. Even a very brief two-line email or online comment is valuable. Swifts are now Amber-listed Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK.
If any members can urgently go and look at this site for swifts, please let us know your sightings. You are more likely to see wonderful displays of swifts in the first half of the morning or evenings. Also, the first two weeks of July are good times to see screaming parties when young ones are prospecting for nest sties for next year.


Andy Potter made a great piece of video of these swifts and has posted it on Facebook. Please do insert a link to this for your members. As well as the serious motive for getting involved, this looks like a fabulous piece of bird-watching to be had:

(click on link at bottom of this News item to see Andy's video or cut and paste the link above)

Just for reference, though I'm sure you know all this:
Dr Richard Black. Conservation Project Manager, at the RSPB SE England Region office in Brighton, is a lead swift Species Recovery Officer for this region. He is the RSPB's lead Swift person for the SE Region.

Rebecca Pitman recently took up her post at The Lodge to lead the RSPB's Swift Cities campaign.

I am, thus far, the only 'official' RSPB Swift Volunteer in London (as an ordinary public member of the RSPB) - though we hope to have another on board shortly (though still not many for our huge city!!)

Hoping that you have members who will help by writing to Enfield Council, the council's biodiversity officer and/or ecologists, local councillors, and anyone else they can think of.

Best wishes,


Catherine Day
Volunteer Swift & Urban Nature Adviser, RSPB SE England Region
Chiswick Swifts Project Co-ordinator
Talks Organizer, RSPB Central London Local Group

Our NE London committee have taken some action - a sister(!) has visited the site and taken photos, and one of us has submitted a comment on the planning website detailing the points listed above.

Please do try and add your voice!