THE demolition of a former Royal Mail building in Princes Risborough has gone ahead, despite fears over the welfare of swifts - with the developer of the site adamant that no birds had been harmed during the operation.

W.E.Black were given planning permission to knock down the former delivery office in Bell Street and build a two storey building with five flats on the first floor and a Morrisons Local on the ground floor.

But demolition which was due to take place on May 22 was stopped, when police were called to delay the proceedings because they were told swifts were present.

Most birds are fully protected and the young must be allowed to leave the nest before taking any action to block the entrance holes.

But managing director of W.E.Black, Eric Gadsden, said there were not any swifts nesting there, as first thought.

He said: "There were never any swifts in the building at all. They could fly though an air brick, just into the wall, but they couldn't get inside.

"They fly in and perch there for a while and then fly off. I believe they do all over Risborough."

The developers' environmentalist checked the building last Friday and found there were no nests or eggs in the building.

Last week at a town council meeting Cllr Will Streule said the developers were told to demolish between September and April, due to the nesting season.

But Mr Gadsden said this only applies if there are nests in the building, otherwise, he said, no demolition would ever take place during this period.

Francis Gomme from The Risborough Countryside Group said swifts are one of the many sights and sounds which make the town special and said they have nested in the Royal Mail building for more than 70 years.

He said: "Our swifts duly arrived back from Africa in mid May.

"However, that's no obstacle to developer Eric Gadsden (W E Black) who simply ignored the planning constraints and commenced demolition last week."

Mr Gomme questioned why the swifts had gone from an "established nest site" and said it was "a really sad day for the town."

Mr Gadsden said: "We haven't killed these swifts. They have not been murdered. They have gone. If they are not nesting there, they are presumably nesting at another site, aren't they?

"I don't think birds give up and die if they can't nest in one spot at a time. There are swifts all over Risborough at this time of year."

They are going to build some form of habitat into the new development to encourage swifts.

He said it was hoped building would start on August 1 and that the Morrisons shop will be in place around Christmas.