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Dive for cover! Birds ruffle feathers as they target Hunstanton gym-goers with their putrid waste

Seagulls. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Seagulls. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Pigeons and seagulls have been ruffling feathers at a coastal leisure centre - by forcing gym-goers to dive for cover while they target them with their putrid waste.

Hunstanton's Oasis Sports and Leisure Centre. Picture: Ian BurtHunstanton's Oasis Sports and Leisure Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

And now a council has even spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ cash to tackle the problem.

The birds are a common sight in and around Hunstanton, as they are along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.

They are known to have a rocky relationship with their human cohabitants, who are often left to fend off the hungriest birds from stealing their food and are exasperated about the mess they leave behind.

But things came to a head at the Alive Oasis leisure centre in Hunstanton, when they discovered the West Norfolk facility had a toasty heating system inside.

A pigeon. Picture: Steve RoundA pigeon. Picture: Steve Round

Unable to get inside, they have been camping on the roof of the centre in Central Promenade to get a little bit of extra warmth as the doors open and shut.

That might have been tolerable - but West Norfolk council, which pays for the cost of maintenance at the site, decided it had to take action when the birds started dropping their putrid waste on people entering and leaving.

Elizabeth Nockolds, West Norfolk council’s cabinet member for culture, heritage and health, said: “The pigeons and seagulls have been a massive problem.

“I think they have been getting a bit of heat when the doors open.”

A seagull. Picture: ANTONY KELLYA seagull. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

She said they had been making a mess “right in the front entrance”, adding: “It is not very pleasant for people going in and out. It can be very off-putting if you know you’re going to have to dive in and out because of the birds.”

Ahead of a meeting this week, a West Norfolk council report said: “To combat continuous problems from birds, especially at the main entrance of the Oasis, netting has been added to the roof structure.”

It has been put there to stop birds resting on the roof structure but is specially designed to ensure those that try to land do not get trapped in the netting.

Mrs Nockolds said the council had spent £3,000 on it because of the importance of creating a pleasant and welcoming entrance for leisure centre visitors.

Seagulls in Hunstanton. Picture: MATTHEW USHERSeagulls in Hunstanton. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

The money came out of its general maintenance budget for West Norfolk leisure centres.

Alive Oasis boasts a gym, swimming pool, exercise classes and other fitness activities.

Bird problems

Hunstanton is not the first town to get in a flap with its bird problem.

In 2012, the Mo Sheringham Museum agreed to trial a Bird Free Optical Gel.

Placed on roofs and ledges in tiny plastic pots, it looked like lemon curd - but had immediate success in spreading the feathered felons far and wide.

Around the coast in Lowestoft, a Harris hawk and a kestrel were brought in on a trial basis last year to frighten seagulls away from town centres, where they are notorious for stealing sandwiches out of people’s hands.

They are due to wing it back to the Suffolk town later this year for another bash at tackling the feathered foes, which have been raised by the town’s MP in parliament.

Some areas however might look towards Devon, where the bird battle has taken a twist - with people facing £80 fines or even a court appearance if they are caught feeding the seagulls.

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