Should fines for feeding seagulls be introduced in East Anglia?
- Credit: Nick Butcher
To some they are synonymous with life on the seaside, while others view seagulls as a major pest which need to be controlled.
Now, after a council in south west England has been given the power to fine people £80 for feeding seagulls, the prospect of such rules being brought to East Anglia is a hot topic of debate.
Councillors, residents and holidaymakers in Norfolk and north Suffolk have been expressing their views after East Devon District Council is believed to be the first in the country to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order to tackle the problem of seagulls.
West Dorset District Council has also held a consultation on introducing the same order and the RSPB welcomes the move.
It comes a few weeks after Lowestoft Vision introduced a hawk and falcon to contain gulls.
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Keith Patience, a district and town councillor in Lowestoft said: 'Seagulls have been a pest here for many years and I would certainly welcome a debate with full council over the prospect of fining people for feeding them.
'There would be issues over how it would be policed but it's worth further debate.
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'Seagulls tear up the bins and leave a mess. They spread disease and can be aggressive. You'd even have seagulls coming down and taking your food off your plate while eating dinner in the garden.'
An RSPB spokesman said: 'Ironically, with so many seagulls in urban areas, we have long-term conservation concerns over them because they are moving away from their natural habitats to gain easy access to food. We fully support councils that are being proactive to tackle the problem.'
Wells Town Council chairman Allen Frary and Cromer mayor Tim Adams, meanwhile, do not believe fines would be necessary in north Norfolk.
Mr Frary said: 'At the end of the day, if you come to the seaside you expect to see seagulls. You hear about them swiping people's fish and chips on the Quayside occasionally but I don't think it's a huge issue in Wells. Fines would be impossible to enforce. How would you determine if someone accidentally dropped their food or if it was done deliberately?'
A total 62pc of people who took part in a poll on the EDP website over the weekend were in favour of introducing fines for feeding seagulls and 38pc were opposed to the idea.
We spoke to some people in Wells to get thier views:
Carolyn Stocker, from Wells, who is retired and volunteers at the Wells Tourist Information Centre, said: 'Seagulls are becoming more of an issue here and they can be violent. It would be better to have signs to educate people why not to feed seagulls.'
Brian Mills, 65, a self-employed welder from Little Snoring, said: 'I've seen in Devon and other places how seagulls are a major problem but I don't think that's the case here. If there are too many gulls you need to cull them.'
Diane Brendling, 65, a semi-retired teacher from Stockport, visiting Wells, said: 'Seagulls are a nuisance but policing a fines system would cost money and may mean council tax has to go up. It's not an easy choice.'
Mark Perkins, 55, a self-employed engineer from Kettering, said: 'Fines seem a bit extreme. I visit Wells five or six times a year and the seagulls have never bothered me here.'