God’s creatures come before revenue deal - Baby owls in mast's way

Barnet and Potters Bar Times

What an interesting view of creation the Rev Laurence Hill of Holy Trinity Church, East Finchley, seems to have. (Baby owls in mast's way', May 12).

When stating that he would not comment on whether investigations will be undertaken into any potential nesting sites within the church, which could be disturbed by the mobile phone mast proposed for the belfry, he said, Birds are not allowed to nest in the church.' Is rain allowed to fall on the church during weddings, or the wind allowed to blow during services?

On a more serious note, a man of the cloth would surely wish such an investigation to be thoroughly carried out before the mast is approved, in order to protect any of the Lord's creatures from being destroyed by it.

We can only hope that the revenue deal entered into between the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England and QS4, the mast installer, will not get in the way of such Christian concerns.

Fiona Rosen
Pageant Avenue, Colindale

1:42pm Wednesday 18th May 2005

Baby owls in mast's way

Nesting birds, including a tawny owl, could scupper plans to install a mobile phone mast in the belfry of an East Finchley church.

The nocturnal guest is a familiar annual sight at the church, and has become a favourite with residents, who say it has been returning Holy Trinity Church, in Church Lane, to breed for the past five years.

A 3G phone mast is proposed for the belfry of the church spire, where residents say the owl is currently nestling with its young.

Clive Cohen, representative of the Barnet branch of the London Wildlife Trust said: "Owls breed much earlier than most birds, and it's this time of year that there will actually be young in their nests."

Members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who live in the area are now investigating the potential effect any disturbance could have on the owl. "Last year it flew past our window at 4am. We've heard it hooting and screeching for the past five years, and calling to a mate who hooted in response," said resident Caroline Broome of Church Lane.

"Last summer a sparrow hawk was resting on our pergola, and within a week, the owl had seen it off its territory it's quite a character."

In addition to the owl, tens of other species of bird are said to be nesting in or around the wooded enclaves of the church itself, including magpies, wood pigeons, blue tits, jays and, for the first time last year, robins.

However, the parish could find itself in hot water, should any of the nests be disturbed. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, disturbing a nesting bird is illegal.

If this is the case, not only will the installation of the mast be illegal, but it is also likely to disturb the owl from ever returning to its nesting site.

Residents are currently lodging their complaints through consultations hosted by the parish and its mast installer, QS4, but are expected to write in with their objections before next Thursday. QS4 has been appointed by the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England as the sole installer of masts on its churches, with the church entering a revenue deal with the firm in return for hosting the mast.

Reverend Laurence Hill, of Holy Trinity Church, said he was not aware that any owl was nesting in or around the grounds of the church.

"It's news to me if there is an owl," he said. "And the builders who have already been up there have not seen a nest in the belfry. The bells are rung there once a week, so I'd be surprised if there was an owl there,"

He would not comment on whether an investigation would be undertaken on any potential nesting sites within the church which could be disturbed by the mast, although he did say birds are not allowed to nest in the church'.


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