Scarborough, Whitby and Filey seagulls - here is the action plan to tackle nuisance issues caused by the birds

A Seagulls Action Plan for 2022 has been drawn up for towns along the Yorkshire coast, to tackle problems caused by nuisance gulls.

By Duncan Atkins
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 4:55 pm
Seagulls around the Bandstand in Whitby.
Seagulls around the Bandstand in Whitby.

A report to Scarborough Council's Lives and Homes Overview and Scrutiny committee heard measures were needed to continue addressing ongoing public safety and health issues caused by the local gulls’ population.

An initial report in January 2020 was recommended for approval, with the main part of the plan being to implement a seagull property proofing scheme.

However, the scheme was put on hold due to the pandemic and it was not until the end of England’s third lockdown, towards the end of March 2021, that it was effectively implemented.

A proposed action plan for 2022 has since been drawn up and discussed by the committee.

The plan for 2022 includes:

* continuing to use SBC’s hot wash towable pressure washer to remove seagull waste and ingrained staining of pavements and street furniture in the borough’s main towns

* continuing to use specialist pest contractors East Coast Pest Control to carry out a seagull proofing building scheme on behalf of the council

* recommence a programme of awareness/educative campaign in primary schools - one each in Scarborough, Whitby and Filey, with the aim of teaching children about the different types of gulls, their habitats, feeding habits and to promote the council's key messages

* promote wider business engagement on key messages such as “don’t feed the gulls” and “do not drop your litter” - one example would be working with suppliers to food establishments to print those key messages on the insides of chip boxes

* review work done in 2021 to appropriately proof SBC properties against kittiwakes nesting, identifying additional measures necessary and to implement them.

* continue to collect evidence of reported gull 'muggings' from visitors and residents in 2020 and also to identify attack hotspots, also to contact other coastal authorities to compare data and share good practice

* encourage businesses to educate their customers to correctly dispose of food waste and not to feed the gulls, with posters displayed prominently in shops, restaurants and takeaways.

* and a communications strategy to promote initiatives and key messages to residents, visitors and local businesses - including ongoing social media activity to promote the ‘do not feed’ and ‘do not drop litter’ messages at key times such as school holidays and major events.

Chairman of the committee, Cllr David Jeffels, said there had been two public representations received.

Jane Meikle had provided a written statement “In defence of the Gulls in Scarborough, Filey and Whitby 2021-2022”.

She asked the council to consider hiring an external consultant to review and recommend a positive way forward for "harmonious living between people and the gulls" and that the committee look at what measures the council could take to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats, in this instance the gulls.

Another resident had provided a YouTube video of evidence of seagull nuisance over a sustained period, which had been provided to committee members prior to the meeting.

One question was raised about an initiative in Eastbourne, where broadcasts of seagulls' alarm calls were made from a speaker system to disperse gulls away, and whether it was an avenue SBC could explore.

In response, officers felt although it might work in a confined area, it would be a very difficult and costly exercise to achieve and they were unsure of its effectiveness on a wider scale.

Another query was raised around the removal of seagull eggs from nests as a control measure but the Head of Environment and Regulation Services said licences were required for that.

With regards to seagull muggings, these had dropped off over the past three years with 204 across the borough since 2015 - 147 in Scarborough, 40 in Whitby and 17 in Filey.

The most common locations where reported muggings took place in Scarborough were on Westborough (28), around seafront sites such as Foreshore Road, the Quay and Sandside (52), while in Whitby the hotspots were in heavily populated visitor areas Pier Road and Battery Parade (31).

The seagulls update report was received and comment on it noted, with the extension of the contract with East Coast Pest Control approved for an additional year, until 2023, as well as the proposals in relation to street cleansing.

The committee also endorsed the proposed Seagulls Action Plan for 2022.

A budget of up to £36,000 in 2022/23 is available to cover the costs of delivering actions on pest control contractors and business engagement.