Residents worried how funfair may affect swan nest

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Bexley residents are worried about how a funfair in a local park will affect a swans nest located less than 20 metres from the event. Bexley Council has been asked to consider reorganising an event in Danson Park after a swan nest appeared next to the site in recent weeks.

Chris Smith, speaking on behalf of the Greenwich Wildlife Network, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the park is known for its wildlife including a variety of birds such as herons and great crested grebes, as well as butterflies and dragonflies. He said he sent several emails to Bexley Council last month when he noticed a swan nest had appeared on the bank of the park’s lake for protective fencing to be erected to keep the animals safe from dogs and people.

However, Mr Smith said earlier this week he became aware of a funfair event, called Dinosaurs in the Park, being set up beside the nest in the park. The event will run from Saturday (May 18) to June 9 and will feature a set of life-sized, moving animatronic dinosaurs with accompanying speakers playing roaring sounds, as well as a crazy golf course.

The swan nest is approximately 18 metres away from the nearest fence line of the event, according to Bexley Council. Mr Smith said he feared the noise and footfall from the event would interfere with the swans, and stated it is an offence to disturb wild birds building a nest containing eggs or young under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Nicky Wilson, a local resident and member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Bexley committee, told the LDRS: “The frustrating thing about it is it seems to me that they didn’t seem to consult with anyone about it. They’ve just gone ahead and done it and there didn’t need to be any of this. If they had just asked, we could have had it all sorted before they started putting the stuff up.”

Bexley Council said in a statement on May 14 that the authority and event organisers were taking all reasonable steps to protect the nesting swans, which had nested along one of the busiest pathways in the park. A council spokesperson told the LDRS that the authority has been holding daily meetings with the event organisers to change the site layout to minimise disruption to the nest and allow the event to operate within its parameters.

The spokesperson told the LDRS: “We have made decisions with the operator on positioning, event sound levels, moving entrances, queuing systems and taken all reasonable steps to avoid disruption to the swan and would urge visitors to the park to also do the same. Interest in the swan has increased this week and we have added an additional fence line around the nest to keep people further away from the bank.”

Ms Wilson said she understands the event was planned before the swan had set up its nest in the current location, but believes the council and organisers had time to move the event site after the nest appeared. She added that she and other locals have no issue with the event itself, but that wildlife appears to be low on the council’s list of concerns when an event is being held.

The local said: “There will be other birds on the lake that are beginning their breeding season. So the proximity of the swans is an extreme concern but any noise and footfall anywhere along there is going to disturb a nesting bird.”

She added: “When you’ve got a park that size, to have the event on that side of the lake. I really can’t understand why they have done it or their reasoning behind it.”

A Dinosaurs in the Park spokesperson told the LDRS that the layout of the event site had been altered following consultation with the council and park management. They said the direction of the queue into the event and location of a dinosaur meet and greet station had been changed to direct attendees away from the nest and that fencing, netting and a storage container had been placed for further protection.

The spokesperson added that bins and waste disposal services would be in place to address concerns on increased litter near the nest. They said signage would also be present to ask visitors to be responsible and respectful of the local birds when leaving the event.

They said: “As the opening of Dinosaurs in the Park approaches, we are aware of the community’s concerns regarding the potential impact on local bird populations, particularly in relation to a swan nesting site. We wish to assure the public that the preservation of wildlife and their natural habitats is a priority for our organisation.”

The spokesperson said that the council’s wildlife officer had visited the event site and was happy with the measures the organisers had taken and was not concerned. They added that the guidelines set by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 were being strictly adhered to ensure no nests were being disturbed during the set up and duration of the event.

They said: “Dinosaurs in the Park is a family fun event set within the beautiful Danson Park, our aim is for children and dinosaur fans of all ages to marvel at the life size collection of dinosaurs on our trail, discover and learn about dinosaurs and enjoy the natural surroundings and have fun.”

A Bexley Council spokesperson said the authority would continue to monitor the situation throughout the event and make any adjustments if required. They said dog owners are reminded to keep their dogs on leads when near the lake to protect birds during nesting season and residents were being made aware of the authority and event organiser’s measures through social media and the council website.

Video: Video showing the swan nest and the nearby Dinosaurs in the Park site in Danson Park. Credit: My London

Picture 1: The two swans currently nesting in Danson Park, as seen earlier this year on the lake. Credit: Nicky Wilson.

Picture 2: Dinosaurs in the Park is due to start in Danson Park on May 18. Credit: Joe Coughlan

Picture 3: Nicky Wilson said she was not against the event but feared it may disturb the nesting swans. Credit: Joe Coughlan

Picture 4: The swan nest is just off the lake in Danson Park. Credit: Joe Coughlan


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