Sidmouth man faces court over seagull scarer

PUBLISHED: 17:01 14 December 2010

Retired councillor Lawrie Brownlee who has been ordered to take down his seagull deterent from his building because there is no planning permission. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 7501-48-10AW

Retired councillor Lawrie Brownlee who has been ordered to take down his seagull deterent from his building because there is no planning permission. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 7501-48-10AW

Archant

SIDMOUTH man in a flap over bid to end years of torment from nightmare ‘neighbours’- noisy seagulls.

Retired councillor Lawrie Brownlee who has been ordered to take down his seagull deterent from his building because there is no planning permission. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 7502-48-10AW

A SIDMOUTH man faces being taken to court over his bid to end years of torment from nightmare ‘neighbours’ from hell- noisy seagulls.

District planning officers have swooped on Lawrie Brownlee, 64, over a timber and chicken wire ‘mini-roof’ contraption on his Fortfield Chambers home.

After six years and several attempts costing hundreds of pounds to deter crafty and unrelenting gulls, the solution seemed to have done the trick for Lawrie and wife Sylvia, only for them to be told to take it down.

A former East Devon District Council (EDDC) enforcement officer, retired Lawrie bears no ill will against the authority, but says he got the idea from Grade II listed sea-front properties in the town that employ the same measure on a larger scale.

He has vowed to fight the move for as long as he can.

“I’m at my wits end,” said Lawrie, “it’s outrageous to have to play second fiddle to a bunch of flying rats.

“I don’t want to drop other people in it but I’ll be damned if I’m the one picked on. We think its all come from one complaint. This person has really opened a can of worms.”

Gulls nesting and landing on their flat roof has disturbed the couple “from day one” at their Station Road home.

“It’s like having noisy neighbours, like living next door to the dysfunctional family. We’ve been driven to distraction,” said Lawrie.

“They just kick off in the middle of the night. The screaming and wailing at 2am is completely intolerable. They’ve even banged on our bedroom window looking for food.

“At the moment the birds can’t nest on my roof- it’s a lot better. EDDC are saying I’m breaking planning law. If I have to take it (wood and wire structure) down I’ll have to get a ladder fixed up to the roof and, as a pensioner, climb up there every day myself.

“My argument isn’t with the council or its officials, it’s with the system, the law is crazy.

“I’m terrified of being prosecuted by the RSPCA if I inadvertently remove a nest with an egg in it.”

“The last thing in the world I’d like to do is kill any birds,” said Lawrie, who has called for action over Sidmouth’s seagull problem.

He feels a controlled cull of the birds, or for residents or town organisations to pull together to employ someone to remove nests in the town could be the solution.

“If they did make it open season on seagulls, someone would get hurt,” said Lawrie. “It needs to be done on a professional basis.

“I’ve sailed the Spanish and Portuguese and Atlantic coasts and I’ve not seen any problems with seagulls, so why here?

“We want to put a bird feeder out but the way it is, you wouldn’t dare.”

‘Sympathetic’ planning bosses say Lawrie faces legal action over his seagull deterrent.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) experts have deemed the bid to be “detrimental” to Sidmouth’s town conservation area.

A spokesman for the authority said: “While we sympathise with anyone who feels the need to deter gulls from roosting on their property, both our principal conservation officer and head of planning services consider the structures Mr Brownlee has created are out of keeping with the design and quality of the building.

“Three options are available, for him to remove the structures from the roof, apply for planning permission for pitched slate roofs to replace the timber and mesh structures, or apply retro-spectively for planning permission to retain the structures. However, it’s unlikely that the latter application would gain approval.

“Failure to take action could make Mr Brownlee liable to legal action.”


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