HUNDREDS of new nests have been created in the Ribble Valley to house swifts returning to the UK to breed.

The RSPB and Ribble Valley Borough Council have joined forces to provide 200 purpose-built holes in the sides of homes for the birds.

With their long scythe-shaped wings, swifts have just arrived back, having spent the winter eating insects in the central Afr- ican rainforests.

Swifts in the UK are almost totally dependent on holes in old buildings to raise their chicks, but these days are finding it increasingly hard to find a place to nest.

Property renovations, and the demolition of old- er buildings, means many of their traditional nest sites in cavities below eaves, or behind fascia boards, have been block-ed up, or destroyed.

New buildings tend to be airtight, with few nest- ing spaces for swifts, resulting in their num-ber declining in the UK.

The council introduced a new planning condit-ion for new houses 18 months ago requiring them to make provisions for wildlife that depend on buildings, such as swifts and bats.

RSPB conservation adv- iser Gavin Thomas said: “Nature is in real trouble from various threats, including the rush to build new houses, but these planning conditions have proved an easy way to enhance our urban environment for wildlife.

“I would encourage every council to follow Ribble Valley’s lead.”

Swift boxes have also been fixed to the outside of the council offices and Ribble Valley Homes Hous- ing Association properties.

David Hewitt, count-ryside officer for Ribble Valley Council, said: “All councils have a respons-ibility to conserve wildl-ife.

“It is such a simple measure to incorporate swift bricks into new builds and it will help ensure these fantastic birds still have places to nest and continue to grace Ribble Valley’s skies for years to come.”