Pesky gulls send people into a flap

Fed up residents have signed a petition calling for the council to tackle the town's seagull population.

More than 250 people across town put their signatures on the document saying the herring gulls' noise were making their lives a misery.

Daphne May, of Winchelsea Road, who organised the petition, made her pleas at a cabinet meeting on Monday, calling for the council to take steps to limit gull numbers.

She said: "The noise from the gulls is horrendous and even earplugs and headphones barely blunt it.

"Food has been snatched from children by gulls in Winchelsea Road and two mothers had to leave the park while picnicking because they were harassed by the birds."

The pensioner called on the council to launch a campaign against feeding the gulls as well as spiking chimneys and roofs.

Legislation bans adult herring gulls from being culled as they are a declining species and protected by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Richard Homewood, the council's corporate director for environmental services, said a number of limited options were open to the council such as egg oiling and replacement to restrict new gull numbers, and deterring people from feeding the birds.

Councillor Robert Cooke said he had a 'lot of sympathy' for residents.

He said: "I remember being chased by a gull when I was 16.

"An educational campaign to get residents not to put out black rubbish bags before collection would go a long way."

Cllr Richard Stevens said gulls were 'part and parcel' of Hastings as a seaside town.

He said: "Where there is a food source gulls will concentrate in that area."

Cllr Phil Scott said: "If you live in a seaside town you should expect to see seagulls. I accept that for some seagulls are a problem and in some of the more problematic areas such as the Old Town, central St Leonards and parts of Ore.

"The council needs to work with residents in tackling some of the problems associated with seagulls such as ripping black rubbish bags apart.

"Black bags should only be put out on the day of collection, so residents may need to consider taking some responsibility themselves and proofing their roofs which would stop herring gulls from nesting.

"I do not accept a need to cull gulls as we are being advised that their numbers are in decline. In any event the herring gulls are a protected species.

"Hastings Borough Council has in place an animal welfare charter."

- After the meeting, the local authority said it wants people to think carefully about where they place bin bags.

Richard Homewood said: "Seagulls really are a part of Hastings but as the weather gets warmer we see a huge increase in the number of birds attacking bin bags and spreading their contents all over the street.

"I would urge residents to keep bin bags in a secure area until the morning of collection day and not to put them out until 7am."