Residents in one of Kensington’s most exclusive streets are in a bizarre row with town hall chiefs over a 60ft bird net installed to prevent them from being plagued by pigeons.
A retired judge and former MI6 officer are among neighbours who have already spent more than £10,000 battling Kensington and Chelsea Council’s demand that they rip down the protective netting.
The birds moved into De Vere Gardens when two hotels were demolished in 2010 to make way for the £600 million One Kensington Gardens development opposite Kensington Palace.
Nearby celebrity bolthole The Baglioni Hotel hooked up a net over its patio to protect its glitzy clientele, who have included Lindsay Lohan, George Clooney, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
The Baglioni hotel also installed anti-pigeon nets
But when one neighbour complained the net cage strung up at the rear of two six-storey Victorian terraces in the sidestreet created a “sense of enclosure”, the town hall stepped in and ordered its removal.
Officers said the net – which stopped the pigeons fouling windows and patios – needed planning permission and launched enforcement action.
Planning row: The 60ft high anti-pigeon netting Nigel Howard
Furious neighbours in the conservation road, where three-bed flats fetch £3million, dubbed the move “pigeongate” and mounted a legal challenge to the Planning Inspectorate.
After losing the appeal they have now lodged a last-ditch application to keep the nets in place.
Dr Daniel Sister, a leading anti-ageing specialist, warned that pigeon poo could lead to people catching potentially “life-threatening” psittacosis – known as Parrot Fever.
He said: “Until the temporary pigeon netting was installed in 2013, our rear patio was fouled daily by pigeons roosting on the ledges, window sills and eaves.
The netting in the alley behind the hotel Nigel Howard
“Since the netting was installed, there has been genuine and obvious improvement.
“I had the experience of the health risks associated with pigeon droppings, having been diagnosed and treated successfully in Paris with psittacosis.
“This can be a life-threatening infection and I do not want to be exposed to this risk nor my wife nor pet dog nor anyone in the building.”
Retired immigration judge and City lawyer Christopher Wright, 78, the chairman of the residents’ association, said: “That the council has taken this action the way it has is an outrage. The obligation to maintain the conservation area should be trumped by the desire of the residents to be protected from this nuisance.”
Fowl mess: Droppings left by the birds
Paul Wheeler, 82, a former MI6 specialist Middle East officer who later worked as a screenwriter on Minder and the Darling Buds of May, said the birds had been “terrorising” the building.
He said: “My wife Alex and I came home one day and the entire kitchen window was covered in poo. We said enough is enough and all decided to put up the nets which made an enormous difference and got rid of the problem. We had no idea you needed planning permission.
“We considered employing a hawk to get rid of the pigeons and we were quoted £10,000 a year. That’s about what we have paid on legal fees now fighting this council decision.”
Pigeon spikes didn’t deter the birds
The town hall’s planning department has recommended the planning committee takes the unusual step of refusing to rule on the application at its meeting on Tuesday.
A report states: “The planning merits of this development were already considered when the enforcement notice was served and the development was found to be unacceptable.
“The enclosure is of considerable scale, has no architectural merit and is causing harm to views of the buildings by reason of its height, bulk and width across the rear elevation.
Neighbour Susan Griggs said the whole row was “ridiculous” Nigel Howard
“There are more discreet and equally effective methods of bird control available including, for example spikes and wires which may be fixed on ledges and other areas where birds tend to perch or roost.”
If the planning application is not approved the residents will have until March 15 to remove the netting.
Neighbour Susan Griggs, 81, a former picture editor of the Daily Telegraph, said: “The whole thing has just been ridiculous.”
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