To bee or not to bee? Sheringham council chiefs criticised for beekeeping ban
Bee enthusiasts have hit out at a north Norfolk town council's decision not to allow beekeeping at its allotments due to 'health and safety' fears.
Sheringham allotment holder Malcolm Birtwell said he thought it was 'madness', and beekeeping should be encouraged given the decline in the native bee population.
Sheringham town mayor Tricia Brooks, who said she was not on the council when the rule was introduced, said she understood the decision was made in case someone had an allergic reaction to a sting. There were fears the council could be held liable. She added: 'I don't have any objection to it being brought back to be fully debated.'
Mr Birtwell, who is a Sheringham town councillor and member of the Weybourne Road Allotment Holders' Association, said he disagreed with the decision.
'When you are on an allotment you are completely surrounded by insects anyway. It is just health and safety gone mad.
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'We need to be more proactive in supporting beekeeping. Bees are a principle pollinator of food crops.'
People have spoken against the council's decision on social networking site Streetlife.
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One user, Bill C, who claimed to be the original applicant that had sparked the council's decision, said: 'Health and safety is a poor excuse to use in my opinion especially as there are plenty of allotments that have bees, and many in Norfolk.'
And a spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: 'The keeping of bees is not a health and safety issue and there are no health and safety regulations that would prevent people from undertaking this pastime.
'Whoever has cited health and safety as a reason needs to clarify exactly what their objection is and not hide behind the tired old health and safety excuses.'
In recent winters, in Europe alone, bee losses were recorded of up to 53pc. Decline in bee populations is the result of multiple factors such as diseases and parasites, climate change and wider industrial agricultural practices.
Gill Maclean, press officer of the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA), said beekeeping could help preserve the bee population.
She was not aware of any other councils that had banned bees from allotments.
Ms Maclean added: 'Lots of councils are quite happy to see it happen.'
She said any beekeepers who were members of the BBKA had public liability insurance.
Town council clerk Denise Medler said: 'Sheringham Town Council objected to having bees on its allotments due to health and safety concerns, this was not based on and health and safety regulations, purely concerns.
'We understand beekeepers can be insured but were worried if another tenant was stung and had an allergic reaction to the sting.
'If an allotment tenant wished to ask for a bee hive on their allotment plot this matter would be bought back to the council for debate.'
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