A pair of swans had previously been removed from the lagoon in 2012 prior to nesting. Unfortunately after this, another pair arrived with the male succuming to the effects of the lagoon. With the works on the site commencing in February 2013, which involved a considerable amount of removal of vegetation and disturbance of sediment, another pair of swans arrived- with a view to nesting.
We were keen to remove as many birds as possible from the site, based on the previous experiences of poisoned birds– especially with the increased risk of poisoning from the toxic sediment. Despite raising the concerns with Rhodia and their consultants at an exhibition held in January concerning the works, which was attended by a swan rescue group and an officer from the RSPCA, the company did not want to facilitate the removal of birds from the lake. They did however agree to the removal of the pair of potential swans. The licence from Natural England for the RSPCA to arrange this was left to ERM- Rhodia’s environmental contractors.
We wondered what contingency they had prepared if several birds were found to be poisoned as a direct result of sediment disturbance.
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
“I am requesting a copy of any licences issued or applied for in respect of the authorised removal of any animal or bird species from the highly toxic white phosphorus contaminated Rattlechain lagoon, John’s Lane Tividale West Midlands,B69 3NG, a lake where 12 birds have been confirmed to have been exposed to the chemical,
with dozens more certainly poisoned over the last several decades.
I received a copy of a licence to remove a pair of nesting mute swans previously in March 2012 under a seperate request, but am aware of another pair being removed from the lake this year. I am also seeking any licences applied for prior to or subsequent to that licence in respect of other species including badgers, which are reported to be present on this site. This includes those relating to setts.
I am aware of redactions related to personal information, and am not concerned with obtaining these details, just the species, the purpose and dates of the licenses.
Natural England responded.
A table was provided which confirmed the licence issued to remove the pair of swans in 2012. However no licence to remove any other pair in 2013 had been obtained. Other species under The licence allowed removal of an eclectic mix of other species- a total of 5 for each between 20/3- 30/9 under the guise of “conservation”.
We are not sure what a “moorhead” is though!
We asked for further clarification about this licence.
“Could you please confirm the license number for that covering the period 20/3/13-30/9/13 and also that it does not include provision for the removal of mute swans.
Could I also request a copy of this license, and the organisatio making the application.”
Natural England responded– though treated it as a seperate request, which it wasn’t.
This response stated
“Please find our response below.
1. To confirm the license number for that covering the period 20/3/13-30/9/13
The licence number was 2013/0512
2. To confirm it does not include provision for the removal of mute swans.
It does not include provision for removal of mute swans or their nests.
3. Provide a copy of this licence, and the organisation.
A copy of this licence is attached. The species and activities permitted are listed in Annexes to the licence. This licence was issued to a private individual from an ecological consultancy on behalf of the site owner. Some information has been withheld as it engages Regulation 12(3) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 which relates to personal information.
You will notice that the copy of this licence has different figures for some species (e.g. coot) than was shown in the previous response. This is not an error in the licence, nor the previous response. The numbers allowed by the licence are different to our previous response as this has been revised since it was first issued. The total number of nests of this species has been increased upon request from the licensee. Coot in particular are a species accustomed to nest failure due to weather conditions and rising water levels, and as such attempt to rebuild nests very quickly after previous attempts have been removed or destroyed. As such an increased number of nests were licensed. When a licence is re-issued there is a new start date hence the dates on the current licence are different to that of the original, however the original licence will have been in force since the first date given.”
The Revised licence was supplied. NB This is dated 23rd MAY 2013. It allows for the destroying of bird nests that may have been encountered on the site whilst the works were in progress.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Despite NOT obtaining a licence to remove the pair of swans, the RSPCA believing that a licence had been obtained by ERM together with the swan rescue group removed the swans from the lake.
Rhodia were most helpful in providing a boat whilst ERM looked on from the bank.
Unfortunately they did not state that our request to remove as many birds as possible prior to works commencing would end up by them applying to remove and destroy any survivors nests instead. In addition to this, they also took the opportunity of taking a picture of one of the swans in a bag for use in a “newsletter”, claiming that they were working with “responsible organisations” to protect the birds.
THEY HAVE A VERY FUNNY WAY OF SHOWING THIS!