Why feed­ing seag­ulls could put you in front of the beak

Vis­i­tors to sea­side will be fined £80 or face court for giv­ing birds chips un­der rules to de­ter the pests

The Sunday Telegraph - - NEWS - By Hay­ley Dixon

FROM di­ve­bomb­ing pen­sion­ers to steal­ing the ham from the sand­wich of a prime min­is­ter, it has been a longheld pub­lic be­lief that the feed­ing habits of seag­ulls are crim­i­nal.

Now for the first time it will ac­tu­ally be an of­fence to help the scav­engers by giv­ing them food. As of this bank hol­i­day week­end any­one tempted to of­fer a chip to a hun­gry-look­ing bird on some of Devon’s best known beaches could find them­selves with an £80 fine, or even end up in court.

East Devon dis­trict coun­cil is be­lieved to be the first in the coun­try to in­tro­duce a Pub­lic Spa­ces Pro­tec­tion Or­der (PSPO) to try to crack down on the ever-grow­ing me­nace.

Other au­thor­i­ties may soon fol­low suit, with nearby West Dorset coun­cil hav­ing al­ready held a con­sul­ta­tion on in­tro­duc­ing an or­der and a de­ci­sion ex­pected later this sum­mer.

It is the lat­est in a long line of at­tempts to con­trol the pests which has seen in­creas­ingly des­per­ate of­fi­cials re­sort­ing to mea­sures in­clud­ing hir­ing hawks to scare them off.

Bold after years of ur­ban liv­ing, seag­ulls have in re­cent years been blamed for launch­ing bloody at­tacks on mem­bers of the pub­lic, killing pet dogs and a tor­toise, and stop­ping post­men who have re­fused to put them­selves at risk.

The at­tacks even led to the in­ter­ven­tion of then prime min­is­ter David Cameron in 2015, who re­vealed that a seag­ull had once swooped down and stolen the ham from his sand­wich as he called for a “big con­ver­sa­tion” about how to tackle the me­nace.

Ian Ste­wart, who last sum­mer was the vic­tim of an at­tack on one of the beaches now covered by the or­der, said that he would wel­come any­thing that might help re­duce seag­ull num­bers. The for­mer Ex­mouth coun­cil­lor, 69, who was left with a bleed­ing face when the bird at­tempted to steal the sand­wich he was eat­ing, said: “The at­tacks have got worse and I have no­ticed that they have be­come more fear­less, you used to walk past a gull and they flew away but now it is a bat­tle between you and them over who will move first.”

Ex­perts have warned that feed­ing the seag­ulls or leav­ing rub­bish around that they can eat in­creases their re­liance on peo­ple and the like­li­hood that they will at­tack.

Coun­cil­lor Iain Chubb, who is re­spon­si­ble for en­vi­ron­ment on East Devon dis­trict coun­cil, said: “We want peo­ple to stop feed­ing [seag­ulls] be­cause it is anti-so­cial, we need to stop them at­tack­ing peo­ple.”

The or­der will ap­ply to the beaches in Ex­mouth, Budleigh Sal­ter­ton, Sid­mouth, Beer and Seaton.

A PSPO al­lows a coun­cil to ban an ac­tiv­ity within a cer­tain area. Any per­son in breach of that ban can be is­sued with an on-the-spot fine or taken to court.

How­ever, Josie Ap­ple­ton, di­rec­tor of the Man­i­festo Club, which cam­paigns against in­tru­sive reg­u­la­tion, warned: “A PSPO is crim­i­nal­is­ing things that peo­ple don’t like. It might be an­noy­ing, but it is not ac­tu­ally a crime.”

Seag­ulls have be­come in­creas­ingly fear­less, at­tack­ing passers-by and steal­ing food on beaches. The new PSPO or­der is to dis­cour­age peo­ple from feed­ing the nui­sance birds

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