Gulls: the council can act

Seagull menace on the seafront.Swooping by.Picture Richard Ponter 133113g
Seagull menace on the seafront.Swooping by.Picture Richard Ponter 133113g

The council can no longer hide behind legal excuses to prevent taking action against swooping gulls and foul mess where public safety is an issue, it has been revealed.

A licence can be granted which would allow authorised persons to take certain gull species or take or damage their nests and eggs, says the Parliamentary under Secretary of state for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Therese Coffey.

In a response to a letter from Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Malton and Filey, she replied: “Gulls, like all wild birds, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the Act), which implements the EC Wild Birds Directive in Great Britain. Under the act it is an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds and to take or damage their eggs and nest.

“There are no provisions that allow for lethal control of the birds for the purpose of relieving nuisance, damage to property or protecting household pets.

“However, where gulls are fouling or attacking individuals this may become a public health and safety issue, for which a licence could be granted.”

The revelation comes after Scarborough Borough Council claimed the only way to tackle the problem would be to net buildings.

The council can in fact apply for a licence from Natural England’s Wildlife Licencing Unit. Mr Hollinrake said: “I think we need see some clear action taken.

“The council has looked at netting to try to make sure they can’t nest on the seafront but I think we need to keep an open mind and look at the overall control of population number. I think everything has to be done humanely but we have to be realistic.”

He added in reference to the netting ‘solution’ that is Scarborough council’s main policy: “Other councils have taken action through reducing nests and egg removal. I think we have to keep that on the table.”

There have been 22 recorded food grabs by gulls since just March – plus many more attacks not recorded.

Resident Anne Pitts said: “Scarborough council should definitely apply for a Licence from Natural England on Health and Safety grounds and provide evidence from local stories and articles.”

Over the summer, residents have raised concerns about the amount of gulls in the area, with many more appearing to move in land for food.

Trevor Watson, director at Scarborough Borough Council, said: “The Council is working proactively to reduce the nuisance caused by Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes during the summer months. However this is a collective responsibility and won’t be solved by the Council alone. It is not a short term fix and, working with partners, businesses and the public we will continue down the road we have started but at the same time be open to further initiatives which may be considered to be appropriate.”