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Special kind of tenants set for new council homes

NEW houses being built by Swansea Council could become homes to a special kind of tenant who pays no rent and can come and go as they please.

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Thanks to a simple but rather special new initiative, all new council houses being built in Swansea in future will offer swifts the chance to set up their own family homes under the eaves of the buildings.

A special 'swift brick' will be included in the design and build of scores of new-build council houses so that the birds can use them as safe nesting places in the years ahead.

Andrea Lewis, Cabinet Member for Housing and Energy, said Swansea Council will be among the first in the country to fit 'swift bricks' as standard in new council homes to create homes for the birds.

She said: "It's a really simple but highly-effective way to make an important contribution to the wildlife communities in our city. For centuries swifts have naturally made their homes in spaces under the roofs of houses up and down the country.

"But more recently the design of buildings has made it harder for them to find the nooks and corners they need, hence the need for swift bricks.

"These spaces offer them ready-made shelter and the new swift bricks, coupled with the design of our new council properties mean that human tenants can sleep easy in the knowledge that their homes will be fine and their guests will be as well."

Cllr Lewis added: "When the UK Government relaxed its rules to allow councils to start building new local authority properties for the first time in a generation, Swansea Council welcomed the opportunity to get building.

"We've already made a start with tenants occupying new homes in Colliers Way. Now work has started on the next round of building at Parc-yr-Helyg and these properties will enjoy all the benefits of the energy-saving Swansea Standard that will help keep energy bills to the minimum. They'll also be the first to include swift bricks."

The Parc-yr-Helyg site is the second of a number of house-building initiatives being developed by the council for coming years which will be paid for by council house rents and Welsh Government grants. The work is set to create or safeguard hundreds of local construction jobs.

Research shows that swift couples bond for life and usually return to the same nesting site year after year. So sites under the eaves of council properties would make a perfect long-term location for them. They breed in the spring and summer, flying south to Africa for the winter, covering up to 800km a day.

Swift bricks come with the support of the RSPB. They are made of hard plastic and are the size, shape and colour of a standard house brick.

They have a hole in them which allows the swift entry into the space behind the brick so they can nest between the outer wall and inner-wall of the building without troubling the roof space or the human family they share the house with.

Cllr Lewis said: "Germany and Poland have introduced laws which require all new-build houses to include a swift brick as part of the construction. The Welsh Government hasn't done that yet but the hundreds of new homes Swansea Council intends to build in the coming years will all have one.

"This initiative is vital to protect the future of the species and is part of the council's commitment to its six key priorities - one of which is maintaining and enhancing Swansea's natural resources and diversity."

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