Patrols to deter ‘menace’ gulls in Sidmouth ditched
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A decision to scrap bird of prey patrols to deter ‘nuisance’ seagulls - and instead spend the budget on educational leaflets and stickers – has come under fire.
Sidmouth Town Council voted against renewing a £5,000 joint contract with a firm that uses falconry to disperse the airborne ‘menace’. Members did not feel it was worth the money.
It decided instead to splash its £2,500 share on material to educate tourists against feeding the animals - to the anger of a business owner who says gulls are ‘plaguing’ the resort.
NBC Bird and Pest Solutions was employed in 2015 as part of a joint project with Seaton to deal with seagulls ahead of the spring nesting season. The company’s regional surveyor, Darren Bishop, said customers normally take out a three-year contract as it can take at least that long to clear a site because of breeding patterns. He added the second year is most critical.
Steve Clarke, of The Rendezvous, in Fore Street, told the Herald: “We are absolutely plagued with gulls in the town – they are everywhere. There is not enough being done – it’s disappointing. As a business, we spend around £500 a year on cleaning up from seagulls. Nobody spoke to me about not having the contract renewed. I just think everything we have done over the last few years has just been undone.”
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Mr Clarke said the effectiveness of birds of prey – which are used by a number of hoteliers in Sidmouth - is proven and he feels the interest they generate among tourists is a more effective way of educating people against feeding gulls.
Mr Clarke said he would be prepared to chip in, but maintains that the town council has to be pro-active and lead the way in combating the problem.
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Town council clerk Christopher Holland said: “Members did not think it was worth the money. Council budgets were under pressure and they did not feel it was worth spending money on the patrols anymore, because it was not having the impact they wanted. That was a majority decision. We are working with the district council to discourage people from feeding the gulls, as that is the main problem.”
Steven Kendall-Torry, owner of Pure Indulgence in Fore Street, felt it was a bit premature to stop the contract, but says he appreciates the council is ‘on a sticky wicket’. Mr Kendall-Torry said: “Seagulls are a menace. They are a serious problem. It’s a complex issue and it’s a long-term project whatever we do.
“There is no quick fix. I support everything they have done so far with educating people and putting up signs.
“There is not a magic wand for the council.”