|The presence of gulls in Dumfries has been an issue for residents and visitors for a number of years and visitors and locals are often left frustrated by the mess and chaos they cause in the Town.
To address the problem an Urban Gull Task Force was set up following a summit hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council in 2008. This Task force comprises members of the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), an independent expert in gulls, and our Council. One of the recommendations placed before this Task Force was that Dumfries and Galloway Council should provide a free nest and egg removal service.
This service was initiated in 2009 and was offered free of charge to property owners in Dumfries and its immediate areas. Members of Environment, Economy and Infrastructure Committee will hear a report on the progress of this Scheme on 1 July.
During 2015, the 7th year of the plan, the cost of this scheme was £20,409, which was funded from the Environmental Health Revenue Budget. The contract for the next three years has now been awarded and it is expected that costs will remain broadly similar.
Dumfries and Galloway Council believe that for the plan to remain effective the service must remain free of charge to property owners as it would be difficult for some people to utilise the service, should there be a charge, particularly in the current financial climate, or if the property was under multiple ownership.
The report to Committee states that the removal of nests and eggs over this 7 year period has been very successful. It is recognised that some gulls have still been successful in breeding, particularly where the positions of nests have been challenging. Unfortunately, this has resulted in small colonies on some roofs. Nineteen of these ‘safe haven’ roofs will now be targeted weekly throughout 2016.
A limited trial will be undertaken in 2016 on the effectiveness of gull repellent products to discourage gulls returning to a nesting location. The trial will utilise both a gel product and spikes which will be affixed free of charge by the contractor. The effectiveness of these measures will be monitored to inform future strategy.
It should be noted that the Council does not have legislative power to instruct owners or occupiers to take action against gulls, neither can it step in to take action by default. For the Council to remove eggs from a property the consent of the owner or occupier is a legal requirement. The task may also be hindered by difficulty of access for the contractor and health and safety issues.
Chair of the EEI Committee, Councillor Colin Smyth said: “There is no doubt that gulls continue to create real misery for many people whether that’s through noise or aggressive behaviour by parent birds protecting their young. It’s encouraging that the nest removal scheme is continuing to reduce numbers in the town centre where it is targeted at, and the overall number of complaints received has fallen.
However, it can only be effective with the cooperation of the public. I would therefore urge people to report any nest causing a nuisance, ideally as early as possible and certainly before eggs have hatched. I’d also ask that property owners maintain their roofs and call for this service if they have a problem with nesting gulls as the council can only remove eggs with the permission of property owners. It’s also frustrating that some people still appear to be feeding gulls and dropping litter which provides a food supply and Community Safety Officers are having to regularly patrol Dumfries town centre”
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