POOLE is one of the biggest spenders on bird control in England, according to new figures.
According to data from a Freedom of Information request by the BBC, the authority has spent £45,060 over the past three years on measures to control pigeons and gulls.
This places it 14th on a table of the biggest spenders, although some way behind leader the London Borough of Southwark which has spent more than £390,000 since 2013.
Speaking to the Daily Echo, a spokesman for the authority said it spends £24,000 per year on bird control at its waste transfer station.
Councillor John Rampton, cabinet member for environment, said: “It is a requirement of the operating licence of the Waste Transfer Station to control the bird presence on site.
“Without controls in place we would be in breach of the site licence and at risk of prosecution.
“The use of a licensed bird of prey is an industry standard way of managing birds and is the most humane way of controlling their numbers at the site. Other deterrents are unable to be used in this case due to the proximity to protected land and wildlife.”
The bird of prey is not released and is simply used as a deterrent.
It is not clear whether or not Bournemouth council has responded to the FOI request, but the authority was unable to provide figures to the Daily Echo on Friday.
A spokesman said: “Our pest control team now only has one person – this means that a lot of the work to control birds in the town centre is subcontracted out to the private sector.
“We cannot touch gulls anyway as they are a protected species.”
The BBC report found the amount of money spent nationally among two-thirds of England’s councils had doubled from £452,000 in 2013-2014 to £830,000 in 2015-2016.
Of 103 authorities that explained what methods of control they used, 12 said they employed marksmen to shoot pigeons, 12 used hawks and 46 used spikes to discourage pigeons landing.
Gulls, in particular, have been the subject of much discussion in recent years due to rising reports of them attacking people and pets. Herring gulls are listed as a vulnerable species and protected.
In August last year Bournemouth councillor Michael Filer said the authority had few powers to interfere with the birds, limited to using netting and wires in highly populated areas and potentially removing eggs from nests – a process described as expensive.
Natural England published advice on gull control in 2015, saying local authorities should use netting to discourage birds from nesting in specific areas, keep food waste facilities secure and discourage the feeding of birds by members of the public.
A general licence is in place allowing councils to remove the nests and eggs of gulls where they pose a risk to “public health and safety”, and it also allows for the “lethal control” of black-backed gulls.
Last week it was reported that “vigilantes” in Berwick-upon-Tweed have been arming themselves with guns and carrying out their own gull cull.
Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the impromptu pest control was “appreciated in some quarters” but “brought the risk that people are having to take the law into their own hands to deal with these really difficult and aggressive birds”.
Like all wild birds, gulls and their eggs and nests are protected from the public under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
According to environment minister Therese Coffey the government has commissioned research to look into contraceptives for gulls, but there are no plans to change their legal protection.
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