ANGRY residents are to protest outside Tesco in North Berwick this weekend, after it was revealed the supermarket had removed house martin nests to install bird netting.

Images sent to the Courier showed the remains of multiple nests in the building’s roof space, removed to put up the netting.

East Lothian Courier:

These nests were inhabited by house martins, an endangered species protected by law, which return to the same nests each year to rear their young.

A peaceful protest will now take place on Sunday at noon outside the supermarket, with the aim of persuading Tesco to reverse its decision.

Carole Fairhurst, one of the protest organisers, said it was the last option, after Tesco rejected calls to remove the netting.

She said: “We are protesting because we have tried absolutely every other avenue to encourage Tesco to remove this netting and they refuse to do so – this is all we are left with now.

“This is a red-listed species; they fly thousands of miles to come here and when they are going to arrive in only a few weeks, they are going to find they have no nest to return to.

“There’s about 50 nests under the eaves at Tesco and they have either been destroyed or completely netted off so they can’t return to any of them at all.”

Tesco had previously stated that the netting was a hygiene measure to protect customers from pigeon droppings.

An RSPB spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, it’s only active house martin and swallow nests that are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so netting-off the nesting areas prior to the arrival of swallows and house martins would prevent them starting to nest, and would be legal.

“Having said that, the ethics of stopping them nesting is another matter.

“There can also be cases of birds becoming trapped and injured in netting, which would be a welfare issue.

“House martins have recently moved to the Birds of Conservation Concern red list; however, it’s not entirely clear what the causes of the declines are at the moment.

“They prefer to nest in existing nests (and use artificial house martin nests), so removal of their old nests or blocking nesting sites under eaves isn’t great for a species already under threat.”

Locals have already added 2,700 signatures to a petition asking Tesco to reverse its decision, and the campaign has received the support of wildlife presenter and activist Chris Packham.

READ MORE: Thousands sign online petition to remove bird netting from Tesco North Berwick

Kenny MacAskill, MP for East Lothian, stated that Tesco’s action contradicted the ethos of the town.

He said: “It does seem perverse for this to be happening in a community where birds and other wildlife are such an integral part of it.”

Tesco bosses have said the netting was installed in close co-operation with bird control specialists, and that the company remains compliant of legislation in regards to protected birds.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “The netting is in place as a safety and hygiene measure to prevent birds from accessing the roof space and dropping faeces onto the customer area below. We continue to monitor the measure with our teams.”