Call of the curlew
WITHOUT urgent action, curlews could be lost as a breeding species in southern England within a generation, says the RSPB. A conference was held last week, organised by Curlew Media, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, to discuss what can be done.
The bird’s breeding population in Scotland declined by 55% between 1995 and 2013 and in England by 32%. The curlew is so rare in Wales and Northern Ireland that trends can’t be calculated. In the Republic of Ireland, there are thought to be barely more than 120 breeding pairs.
The loss of hay meadows and wet grassland have been a key threat in the southern parts of the UK; good nesting habitat in upland areas has also come under pressure. Overall, in recent years, the curlew’s breeding range in the UK has decreased by about 17%. Furthermore, a quarter of the world’s breeding curlews come from the UK and the bird is classified as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It’s the only ‘near threatened’ species of which the UK has a substantial part of the global breeding population. ‘This lovely bird and its evocative call are woven into the lives of people,’ says organiser Mary Colwell. ‘They are part of who we are.’ Conservation officer Phil Sheldrake adds: ‘We’ve turned around the fortunes of other birds, such as cirl buntings and stone curlews, in southern England and we can do the same for the curlew.’ The plan at the moment is to explore habitat management and predator control in certain areas. Visit www.rspb.org.uk for further information.
Stamp Duty windfall
THE 3% Stamp Duty (SDLT) surcharge introduced in April has made almost twice as much for the Government than expected, says HMRC. The total for the year—£1.19 billion, £962 million of which came between June and December—is being labelled a ‘windfall’.
Almost a quarter of UK house buyers are affected by the hike, which was introduced to dampen the buy-to-let sector and thus help first-time buyers. However, although it has certainly provided the Treasury with a bigger pot, the problem of ‘significant cash investment in buy-to-let’, says Savills’s Lucian Cook, means that only about a fifth of additional properties sold during the period were bought with a mortgage.
Nick Leeming, chairman of Jacksonstops & Staff, comments: ‘The data suggests that buy-to-let investors are not being deterred. We will see the true impact of this policy in time, but my fear is that additional costs will be passed on to tenants.’