Sidmouth woman, 70, reaches agreement with council over feeding birds

Rose Rodell with her dog Berkley at Pennington Point, Sidmouth.

Rose Rodell with her dog Berkley at Pennington Point, Sidmouth. - Credit: Archant

‘Agreement’ comes after pensioner had previously been ordered to ‘refrain from feeding birds in any public place’ in the town - and launched landmark legal challenge.

View of Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton.

View of Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth pensioner, who was served with a council order to stop her feeding birds in the town, has struck a deal which will allow her to leave food out for the animals.

After a costly seven-year long battle involving dozens of investigations, Rose Rodell was issued with a Community Protection Notice (CPN) under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) ruled that ‘the feeding of birds with grain, peanuts and other food within the area of Sidmouth to such an extent that the high number of large birds, including pigeons, attracted, is affecting the homes and wellbeing of residents of Sidmouth’, and specifically around Mrs Rodell’s York Street home.

She was ordered to refrain ‘feeding birds in any public place’ within parts of the Sidmouth town area and banned from ‘placing out any bird feed or other food in the open air within the curtilage of [her] property’.

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But Mrs Rodell, 70, then launched a landmark legal challenge to have the order revoked – the first appeal against such a notice in the country.

She was due to appeal the council’s decision last week at Exeter Magistrates’ Court, but the appeal was dropped after a last-minute agreement was reached.

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The agreement means Mrs Rodell can use ‘two small bird feeders’ in her small back garden and can put out a saucer of cat or dog food for hedgehogs in her front garden – but the meat can only be placed outside between 10pm at 8am and must be removed during the day.

She can also feed the birds in the cemetery at her local town centre church – unless the vicar objects – as this is private church land and not owned by the.

Speaking after the court hearing scheduled for last week, EDDC’s principal environmental health officer Janet Wallace said the CPNs brought in under new laws were to deal with ‘repeated or ongoing conduct which negatively affects the quality of life of the community’.

She said Mrs Rodell’s council-owned terraced cottage home has a four-metre square ‘very small rear yard’ and a slightly larger front garden. Mrs Wallace said she was first involved in investigating complaints of the consequences of excessive bird feeding in June 2009.

She said Mrs Rodell was experiencing ‘serious rat infestation which necessitated excavating her rear patio’ which was also affecting her neighbours.

Mrs Wallace said: ”The infestation was eradicated but a major contributory factor was considered to be excessive bird feeding.

“I gave her advice to feed birds only in hanging feeders suitable for small birds and to clear up any spilled food.

“She was advised not to have any open food in the rear yard or front garden of her property.

“In this way larger birds and rats were less likely to be attracted to her property.

“She did not abide with this advice.”

In July 2010 she issued Mrs Rodell with a notice under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act and while she stopped feeding the birds at home, the pigeons stopped going there.

But she said by December 2010 neighbours complained about excessive feeding of birds and lots of pigeons were going to her garden – ‘upwards of 30 at a time’.

Mrs Wallace said the pigeons caused ‘mess and distress’ to distressed and tearful neighbours while feeding and waiting to be fed and residents could not use their rear yards without cleaning up bird mess from garden furniture and windows and their washing was fouled.

She added: ”Between 2010 and early 2015 my team undertook 28 investigations into complaints regarding Mrs Rodell excessively feeding birds around Sidmouth.”

Mrs Rodell was issued with a £100 fixed penalty for littering after Mrs Wallace saw her feeding pigeons with peanuts in the town’s Market Square.

But she continued to feed the birds with peanuts, mealworms, crabsticks – sometimes outside food premises in the tourist town, said Mrs Wallace.

In 2014, some residents, businesses, Sidmouth Town Council and the town’s chamber of commerce all complained about her persistence in feed large birds at home and around the town and she was issued with the CPN.

After the hearing, Mrs Rodell made a statement saying: ”I am glad that we’ve reached an arrangement that means I can continue to feed birds in Sidmouth, but in a way that the council accepts.

“This does not mean I believe I have harmed anyone.

“I would like all people in my area to have a more positive outlook on how we live around our wildlife.”

Any breaches could result in more fixed penalty fines or further court action, the council said.

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