Visitors to a popular Norfolk beach have been urged to stop feeding seagulls chips as the birds could be causing widespread water pollution problems.

Councillor Brian Long has called for the clamp down to try and control population numbers at Heacham, which has had a ‘poor’ water quality rating since 2021.

A recent study into what is causing the pollution issues at the beach and nearby Hunstanton highlighted a possible link between the problem and birds.

Eastern Daily Press: Heacham's waters have been rated as 'poor' since 2021Heacham's waters have been rated as 'poor' since 2021 (Image: Chris Bishop)

During a presentation of the study to West Norfolk Council, environment manager Andrew Raine, said: "To date, there is not sufficient information to draw firm conclusions as to the definitive cause of poor water quality.

"Currently, there are no obvious smoking guns in terms of human input but there's a possible link between bacteria numbers and seabirds.

"The results indicate there could be enough bacteria from wildlife sources and that Heacham will always struggle with bathing water quality even if you removed all human elements."

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Eastern Daily Press: West Norfolk councillor Brian LongWest Norfolk councillor Brian Long (Image: Newsquest)

This prompted Mr Long to urge people to stop feeding the birds. 

He said: "I'm not saying we should cull the gull but as humans we need to act responsibly and not add to the food source for the gulls."

Eastern Daily Press: The Wader Spectacular at SnettishamThe Wader Spectacular at Snettisham (Image: Newsquest)

The Wash is one of the most important estuaries for migratory birds, who feed off the vast mudflats in huge numbers. In Heacham, there are also a high number of ducks that live there.

Mr Raine said more work needs to be done and the agency is hoping to conduct further tests at the mouth of the rivers that feed into the Wash - the Welland, Nene and Great Ouse.

While seabirds may contribute, investigations are continuing into any human impact.

Officers have been looking into misconnections at properties and highlighting pollution prevention measures at farms and holiday parks.

Anglian Water is confident its sewage treatment works along the River Heacham and at King's Lynn are not contributing to the problem.