WORK at a controversial riverside site in South Shields has been suspended over concerns for nesting birds.
The Port of Tyne’s £180m expansion plans require the closure of Readhead’s Landing, in Commercial Road, but preparation work is on hold after a flock of kittiwakes arrived for the nesting season.
The site is currently the centre of a dispute between the port and protestors who want to keep it open to the public.
A spokesman for the Port of Tyne said: “The Port of Tyne started work following guidance from Natural England, and within the relevant laws, to discourage birds from settling on a derelict building due for redevelopment.
“We were monitoring bird activity, and last Wednesday work was immediately stopped when a colony of kittiwakes arrived.
“No birds have been disturbed while nesting, and no further work in this regard is planned before the end of the nesting season.”
But the move has done little to appease protestors, who had already contacted the police and RSPB about the birds’ arrival.
Geoff Armstrong, a great-grandfather-of-12, from the Lawe Top, South Shields, said: “There’s a big colony of kittiwakes which have been nesting there for about 50 years.
“There were a lot of people down there at the weekend who were concerned at the work being carried out by the Port of Tyne.
“It’s illegal to disturb nests during the breeding season and we contacted the police and RSPB.
“The birds come back every year to that same place.
“There’s probably about 100 of them all together, but the Port is trying to make the ledges they nest on uninhabitable.”
Fellow campaigner David Ray, 49, of Sunderland Road, South Shields, added: “I’ve been going down there for 42 years and the birds have always been there.
“The RSPB says the port is now having to wait until after the breeding season, when the birds have left, to get rid of all the nests. The hope is that the birds don’t come back. But they will.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “We received a number of reports on March 17 and 18 from people concerned about the welfare of nesting kittiwakes in Readhead’s Landing, South Shields, and inquiries are underway.”
A spokesman for the RSPB said: “We have spoken to the Port of Tyne, and it is our understanding that work has been stopped near the site where the kittiwakes are nesting, and will not resume until after the birds have finished nesting.”