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Signoff: David Taylor

THE EUROPEAN Ground-Nesting Birds Directive might sound like it was dreamed up by some meddlesome drone at the European Comm ission with too much time on his hands, but it's real enough.

It's a piece of environmental legislation aimed, I assume, at preventing the decline of certain bird species. But why 'ground-nesting' in particular I have no idea. Why not tree-nesting, or hedge-nesting? Or, indeed, old watering-can-nesting (which, you must admit, are among the more appealing birds, which is why you see them on so many greetings cards), You might feel inclined to ignore this directive as a piece of Eurononsense, but, as Wimpey Homes has found out, the legislation won't ignore you.

Wimpey wants to build some houses on a brownf ield site in Bracknell. What better use could there be of a brownfield site? But it can't build, at least not yet, because of the Ground-Nesting Birds Directive.

There are birds, nesting, on the ground, in the immediate vicinity of the site.

Not to be deterred, Wimpey has taken an unexpected course and proposed a compromise: if it's allowed to build on the site, it will make it a condition of sale that owners of the new houses cannot keep pet cats. So far there's been little response from the local planning office although I did hear a spokesman on the radio describe the move as 'a joke'.

But domestic cats are estimated to kill more than 55 million birds every year and , as th is site is home to such rarities as Dartford warblers and nightjars, it makes sense to keep the cats away. A spokesman for English Nature said that if people brought cats into the area, they would simply 'hoover up' the birds.

Well, good luck to Wimpey, and good luck to my mate Barry. He's looking for a new home in the Bracknell area and he doesn't like cats ? they upset his Harris hawk and his peregrine falcon.

DID YOU know that before the British invented Egyptology people across what we now call the Middle East didn't know the t rue cultu ral and spiritual value of Egyptian mummies?

I only recently discovered (thanks to my daughter's history homework) that ancient Egyptian mummies were once so common that they were regarded by more modern Egyptians as a commodity and were used for a variety of purposes. In the 19th century many were even burnt for fuel in steam trains when wood and coal were in short supply.

Castle Cement has obviously been reading the same history books as my daughter because it has come to light that it too burns body parts in its kilns.

Not human bodies, though. Castle Cement is going to burn 'abattoir waste' to make cement.

It sounds very unsavoury and I for one am pleased I don't have the job of stoking the furnaces. But at least it's answered one puzzling question for me: I now know why you can no longer buy a chicken with the giblets still inside it.

I BET those Scottish members of parliament were rather surprised when one of the beams holding up the roof of their debating chamber came loose last week. Actually, I should think everybody's a bit surprised.

Here's a building lauded for its beauty and architectural excellence, which cost £400 million to build against an initial budget of £40 million. I've heard people defend this overspend by saying this is a historic building, built for the future and likely to remain standing long after many lesser off ice blocks have been torn down or crumbled into dust.

All I can say is: 'Not at this rate.'