A housing developer has been given permission to build a new estate - after it agreed to spend £400k on a field next door for just ten rare birds, writes John Bett.

Barratt Homes planned to build 187 homes - but the site is also a breeding ground for cirl buntings.

The breed was once common in the UK but now they are only found in South Devon - specifically on the plot of land in Paignton, Devon.

Now councillors from Torbay Council have approved plans that will see Barratt Homes spend £437,500 to develop a new habitat for five pairs of cirl buntings.

The decision was made at a recent council meeting, and Paignton Councillor Barbara Lewis, 69, spoke out in shock about the amount of money being spent.

She said: "I stand by my comment at the council meeting, £437,500 for five pairs of cirl buntings seems a bit over the top.

"I want to protect the birds and all that but it's an awful lot of money.

"The things that could be done with the money, but they're spending it on five pairs of birds."

The site where Barratt Homes wanted to build, Yannon's Farm, is on the outskirts of Paignton.

But they were told by councillors that their plans could not go ahead unless a new breeding-ground could be made for the finch-like birds Barbara continued: "It could have an impact on business in the area, it could have been spent on something else - or at least some of it.

"If the birds need something sorting out then fair enough, but it really is a lot of money.

"I just think that the local community could have benefitted from some of it, even if they spent half of it in the area.

"When I read the report I got quite angry and I don't feel like I got answers to from the planning officers to the questions I asked about what the money would be spent on.

"What is it spent on - bird boxes? They're not that expensive surely.

"I'm all for the birds, I don't have a problem with that."

The cirl bunting breeds across southern Europe, on the Mediterranean islands and in north Africa.

The species are said to have been adversely affected by agricultural practices and now they are considered rare in the UK.