Councillors, MPs and MSPs face gull problem

A FEW weeks ago the Montrose Review, recognising the strength of feeling in the town about the menace of seagulls, decided to examine the problem more closely.

And whilst nobody expects an instant remedy, it is gratifying to see how many people, in a position to influence those who pass the laws, are now taking a serious interest in what is not just a Montrose problem but one which affects seaside towns throughout the country.

For example, Independent Angus councillors Mark Salmond and David Fairweather recently met with Angus Council’s chief executive, Richard Stiff, to discuss measures that the local authority can develop to try and reduce the seagull menace in the coastal towns of Angus.

Both councillors have had constant complaints from residents in Arbroath and Montrose about the scavenging gulls attacking people, pooing and vomiting on cars, pavements and roofs and causing noise nuisance.

Councillor Salmond said: “We were advised again that seagulls are protected by legislation and that we must work within the law, but this is difficult to accept when these birds are causing so many problems and are now becoming violent and aggressive in our town centres”

Councillor Fairweather said: “We had a constructive discussion with the chief executive and between us identified areas for improvement in how Angus Council could communicate better with the public on how to request the free nest and egg removal service that Angus Council provides to residential properties.”

His Montrose counterpart, Councillor Salmond, added: “I have also asked the chief executive to look at how the scheme could be expanded to smaller commercial properties and what the likely costings and exclusions to this extension to the scheme would be. After all, gulls do not discriminate between residential and commercial buildings.”

And Councillor Fairweather said: “Another area that we have asked officers to look at is what legal measures can be put in place to stop people feeding the gulls in public places. This is just encouraging the gulls to our town centres and something Councillor Salmond and myself are receiving constant complaints about.”

One other important issue both councillors discussed with Mr Stiff was how Angus Council can improve its waste management in town centres. Councillor Salmond said: “Gulls are very adept at pulling litter out of the bins and Councillor Fairweather and myself have asked for a review of town centre litter bin collections with a view to increasing the frequency during the peak summer season”.

Your Review reporter can add to the above comment, having seen very early on Monday mornings large plastic bags torn by gulls from wheelie bins outside High Street premises, and the contents strewn over pavements. Clearing this away must take a considerable time by council employees.

Mr Stiff is also to contact other coastal councils around the UK to see what initiatives they have put in place to deal with the ever growing gull population, to see if Angus Council can learn any lessons.

Both councillors are delighted that recently elected MSP for Angus North, Nigel Don, has agreed to press Hollyrood to find a way to deal with this problem.

Councillor Salmond said: “The legislation which Angus Council applies originates through the UK and Scottish Governments, and I have written to Mike Weir MP, Nigel Don MSP and Graham Dey MSP asking them to meet with Councillor Fairweather and myself to see what we can collectively do to reduce this problem for our Angus constituents.”

And Montrose community councillor Tommy Stewart has been in touch.

Mr Stewart said: “With regard to the letter in last week’s Review concerning the problem with seagulls, I agree, it’s great that Nigel Don MSP is to try to do something about the problem.

“The writer of last week’s letter, however, asks why our local councillors along with the ‘anonymous’ Community Council cannot initiate a countrywide effort to have the laws changed. It’s not the Councillors or even the Community Council who can change these laws.

“Montrose Community Council, past and present, have discussed this issue on numerous occasions with councillors. Due to the number of complaints, Angus Council started to offer the free nest removal service to both private and council householders.

“Sure, it doesn’t eradicate the problem, but it does help, providing residents take up this free offer.

“It would help more if people would stop feeding the seagulls. Last week, while driving through the High Street, I observed a chap sitting on the seats outside Specsavers, quite happily feeding the seagulls who had spotted the loaf of bread he was carrying. I would estimate there were around 50 seagulls enjoying lunch. This is irresponsible behaviour and something that shouldn’t be encouraged.

“As for the writer’s assertion of Montrose Community Council being anonymous, I can assure him or her that just because we’re not in the press every week, it doesn’t mean we’re not dealing with issues behind the scenes.

“I’m sure Montrose Community Council would have been happy to meet with the writer of the letter, but unfortunately the person, themselves, chose to remain ‘anonymous’.

“Montrose Community Council has put this item on the agenda of their next meeting on August 25 at 7pm in Montrose Academy, which the writer and any other member of the public are welcome to attend.”