Serve ASBO on persistent St Andrews seagull feeders?

An OAP feeds the seagulls.
An OAP feeds the seagulls.

A St Andrews pensioner has called on Fife Council to serve anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) on householders who put out food for seagulls.

The woman, who stays in a residential area in the south of the university town, said she was “fed up” with people who feed seagulls - and pigeons - on almost a daily basis and has asked the council to consider following the example of another Scottish local authority.

She told the Citizen: ”Myself and many of my neighbours want the council to do something about this continual problem.

‘‘The gulls and pigeons are a real cause for concern with their fouling of buildings and cars and noise pollution. It is something that affects the whole of St Andrews.

“Because they have a regular supply of food they also build their nests in this area, which is another huge problem.”

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had approached council officials and local councillors to complain, but to no avail.

She added: ”They didn’t seem interested and said there was nothing they could do. However, if those who actively feed the birds were told they could be committing an offence then they might have second thoughts.

”Why can’t Fife Council follow the example of the local authority in Moray and issue ASBOs to those who persisently feed the gulls and the pigeons?”

The tough new crackdown being launched by Moray Council follows the increasing number of complaints about householders putting food out to feed the gulls. Persistent offenders could now be given anti-social behaviour orders – which are legally binding and will land residents in court if breached.The local woman also highlighted the availability of a gel containing chilli pepper extract which has been developed to help disperse colonies of pigeons, gulls and other problem birds.

The substance, which is almost invisible, is applied to surfaces of public buildings, monuments etc, where the birds are known to land, allowing the active ingredient to stick to their feet causing a mild irritation. The idea is that after a few visits they will not return.

Meanwhile, a three-month experiment in part of the town centre funded by local residents - whereby an environmental protection company has been engaged to introduce birds of prey to scare off the significant numbers of seagulls - is proving to be a success to date.

Since mid-March, South American Harris Hawks have been located on the roofs of high buildings on two days a week with the aim of preventing the gulls from building their nests in the central area.

Graham Wynd, spokesman for the group of residents spearheading the initiative, said :”It is producing some promising results and there has been a marked improvement in Hope Street and Howard Place.”

Discussions are currently ongoing with the owners of a business property in Market Street to be allowed to have the hawks in situ on a high roof there, which it is hoped will give similar positive results in Greyfriars Garden and the immediate area.

Roddy Mann, senior manager of environmental operations with Fife Council, said: ”The authority’s public protection team has responded to complaints regarding seagulls in St Andrews but has not been able to identify any public health nuisance attributed to them and, as such, can take no action. 

“However, signs have been put up in coastal areas asking people not to feed the seagulls and to raise awareness of the issues they cause. Our environmental technical officers also visit areas where particular problems have been identified. They speak to people who may have been feeding the birds to explain the problems and the impact on the rest of the community.

“With regard to another trial in Dumfries and Galloway using falcons, it proved birds of prey are not a solution to the problem. While it did reduce the number of aggressive incidents, the number of seagulls actually increased.

“St Andrews receives more than 650,000 visitors annually. There are two beaches where many people picnic, so there are sources of food for seagulls.

“We have a range of measures in place to help reduce this problem. We have bins designed specifically to prevent seagulls from removing material from them. Our street cleaning teams regularly clean the streets and remove black bags left on the kerb side that attract the birds. Our message to the public is do not feed these scavenging birds and make sure that litter is disposed of the in the proper way.

“We do issue fixed penalties notices to people for littering and anyone failing to pay these fines would result in court action being taken.

“It would be very difficult for the council to go down the route of ASBOsbos unless we had evidence of people persistently feeding birds in their gardens in an inappropriate manner.”