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
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