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Fury as Rishi Sunak ‘blocks efforts’ to help save swifts from extinction

Rishi Sunak may be a devoted “Swiftie” – but the prime minister’s government has provoked fury by reportedly blocking efforts to help save real swifts from extinction.

Mr Sunak last summer went to a Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles and even took part in a cycling class set to the “Shake It Off” singer’s music.

But the Tories are said to have vetoed a popular campaign to change the law to create homes for swifts, the globally threatened bird species whose populations have been plummeted by more than half in the UK.

The government denied it had blocked the move – but campaigners claim a purported official letter proves ministers “have no plans to legislate”.

Conservationists backed by the RSPB want swift bricks to be compulsory in all new housing to provide homes for these birds.

They say nesting sites are being increasingly blocked off by insulation and house-improvements across the UK. Modern buildings have fewer bird nest places, and those in old buildings are being destroyed.

Swift populations in the UK plummeted by 60 per cent between 1995 and 2020, according to the British Trust for Ornithology, leading to the bird being added to the red list of species most threatened.

Conservationists say nesting sites are being increasingly blocked off by insulation and house improvements (Getty Images)

In February, nature writer Hannah Bourne-Taylor, who has led the campaign, walked naked across part of London to lobby for what she said was an urgent need to change the law for the “iconic and irreplaceable” bird, and had a meeting with leveling-up secretary Michael Gove.

Nearly 110,000 people have signed a petition backing the campaign, which has run for more than a year.

But now former animal-welfare minister Zac Goldsmith has accused Mr Sunak of blocking the idea of ​​legislation.

He said campaigners had been puzzled by the government’s failure to act, he said.

“Almost everyone supports the measure as it is so cheap, easy, popular and also crucial for the survival of this much loved and admired species. Even the housebuilders are on board,” he wrote on social media.

“So why has Michael’s department failed to act, despite early enthusiasm for the measure? It turns out the problem, as ever, is with Number 10. Apparently Rishi Sunak doesn’t like the idea and has blocked it.

“What on earth did we do to deserve a leader of this great country who is so completely indifferent to nature?” Mr Goldsmith asked.

Commentators were furious, many slamming the decision as “disgraceful and shameful”, and not understanding why the Conservatives would not return to a move that would be so popular.

One posted a photo of a letter from Mr Gove’s department saying the government had “no plan to legislate on the matter”.

The letter said the government believed planning was primarily a local matter and that the Environment Act 2021 required developers to leave biodiversity in a better state – “biodiversity net gain”.

Ms Bourne-Taylor said the lack of new legislation left the “most epic birds without any guaranteed nesting habitat in Britain”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Leveling Up said of Lord Goldsmith’s claim: “This is wrong. “We are working hard with the sector to promote the provision of nesting bricks for our swift population and we welcome any action by developers to provide nesting facilities for birds.”