Council's bird of prey must be grounded

A TOWN council that made efforts to rid a site of nesting gulls has come to an 'impasse' after committing more than �4,000 for a bird of prey that has been grounded for safety reasons.

A TOWN council that made efforts to rid a site of nesting gulls has come to an 'impasse' after committing more than �4,000 for a bird of prey that has been grounded for safety reasons.

Beccles Town Council responded to pleas from residents from Fair Close and Gosford Road who were fed up with the noise and mess caused by the growing colony.

Members agreed to elicit the help of a Harris Hawk, which made its maiden flight over the town centre site in January.

This month, neighbours led by Phillip Page spent hours 'stringing up' the site with bailing twine and red and white tape at close intervals to prevent the gulls from landing and therefore nesting.

But town clerk Bernie Broom informed councillors at a meeting on Tuesday that the two approaches had come into conflict.

'We all knew Mr Page and local residents had planned to do the stringing to prevent the seagulls from landing. Nobody thought that by stringing the area it would also prevent predator birds from landing should they need to do so. Occasionally the birds need to land on the ground and if the string is there the birds get tangled up, so the contractor is refusing to fly the predator birds.

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'As we signed a contract this means we are liable for the whole money.'

The one-year contract, costing �1,064 per quarter, was to involve firstly fortnightly, then weekly flights. Mrs Broom said Mr Page refused to cut down the string, adding: 'We are at an impasse.'

The derelict site is owned by Anglia Coop, which gave the neighbours permission to carry out the stringing.

Mr Page said: 'This isn't something that we've sprung on them, it's something they have known about since last September when I went to the council meeting.' He added: 'I'm sorry it has come to this. I think that's a case of none of us could foresee it.'

Mr Page said the work had involved at least 40 hours of labour, 'several miles' of bailing twine and more than 100 wooden stakes.

'There's no way I'm going to take it down, not after working out there all those hours,' he said. 'The resident gulls who have been about here over the winter months don't land any more - they haven't been landing since we put the string up.'

He added that time would tell if his measure was effective long-term, adding: 'I'm reluctant to go down the bird of prey route as it's here today and gone tomorrow.'

Councillor Jill Featherstone told fellow members at the meeting: 'The stringing isn't a proven method - it might work or it might not work. The hawks are a proven method.' She suggested that the council write to Anglia Coop as a matter of urgency to ask for its guidance, adding: 'We haven't got the jurisdiction but they have.'

Amidst the furore a Beccles naturalist has questioned whether the measures will have any effect at all.

In a letter to The Journal Colin Jacobs, of Grove Road, suggested that the wires spread across the site would be ideal for stopping aerial predators from taking the gulls' young and that they will be attracted by the extra security of the strings.

He added that the birds that cannot nest on the ground will in fact nest on residents roofs, as the breeding urge is so great.

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