Anti-gull drone could be deployed in Cheltenham

 

By Leigh Boobyer – Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors could be set to deploy the most hi-tech deterrent yet in Cheltenham’s war on gulls – a drone.

The mobile copter would zoom across the town to spot rooftop nests that could then be targeted by prevention methods in a bid to tackle the birds, which are causing sleepless nights for some residents.

Spotting the gulls’ homes with the rotored robot would mean officials could oil more eggs to prevent them hatching.

A council working group has come up with a series of recommendations to put to Cheltenham Borough Council’s cabinet to agree.

Of them, a drone was advised for purchase as well as working with the highways authority – Gloucestershire County Council – to temporarily close roads “more easily to allow a more nimble approach to treating nests”.

According to a report to be presented to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, urban gull colonies have risen from 239 in 2000 to 473 in 2015 – an increase of nearly 100 per cent.

It has shot up because of generally higher temperatures in towns, street lighting allowing night time foraging, urban refuse and nearby landfill sites, and buildings which provide safe nesting sites, the council document said.

The gulls tend to settle down in residential areas which the council says are hotspots for loud squawks and deploy large amounts of droppings.

WHAT ELSE COULD HAPPEN?

The scrutiny task group have put forward 19 recommendations for the authority’s cabinet meeting to consider at a later date.

It has been suggested by the group, chaired by councillor Klara Sudbury (LD, College), to increase the money used to tackle the issue of urban gulls by £10,000 for 2019.

It is being recommended:

  • Residents’ bins could be fitted with gull-proof flaps and provided when litter bins are due to be replaced.
  • Consider bringing in ‘Belly bins’ for the town
  • Make takeways and mobile catering vans provide gull-proof bin outside of the premises
  • Approve new home developments through the planning committee that would take into account opportunity sites for gulls to nest on.
  • Work with Cheltenham businesses to consider sponsoring gull-proof litter bins
  • Ask council leader Steve Jordan to write to the Government to ask them to reconsider funding national research on urban gulls
  • Find out what powers the council has to enforce property owners to gull-proof their property and ask Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk to address at a national level any legal loopholes in such powers

WHAT DIDN’T MAKE IT?

Deploying hawks as a deterrent was among the list of ways the council could tackle the birds, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported earlier this year.

But the group found it could not bring in the birds of prey because the cost would be a “very expensive way to displace rather than solve the problem”.

In June, an official ruled out shooting the gulls as a permanent solution – an option the authority reportedly once considered in 2010.

THE 19 RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Increasing the budget available to control the Urban Gull population in the 2019-20 budget by £10k;
  2. Creating a written Urban Gull Strategy, setting out CBC’s approach to controlling the urban gull population;
  3. The Leader of CBC to write to the Government to ask them to reconsider funding national research on urban gulls;
  4. Establishing what powers the council has to enforce property owners to gull proof their property or treat nests on their property and ask Alex Chalk MP to press for any legal loopholes in these powers to be addressed at a national level;
  5. Using part of the proposed increase in the urban gull budget to develop a media plan that will raise awareness of the issues around gulls;
  6. Considering a community project which engages local universities, businesses and communities in research, similar to Bath and North East Somerset Council, to record the extent of the gull population in Cheltenham;
  7. Purchase a drone to survey for nests subject to necessary regulations, any unplanned costs associated with this to be met from the proposed increase in the overall gulls budget;
  8. Explore whether it is possible to seek an informal arrangement with Gloucestershire County Council to get roads temporarily closed more easily, to allow a more nimble approach to treating nests;
  9. Recognising that in the short timescale available it will not be possible to find and treat every nest, CBC should take a more proactive approach to treating nests on residential properties. Where CBC cannot safely access the property to treat the nest, give information to property owners about private contractors who may be able to undertake this work;
  10. Conduct a review of existing litter bins in Cheltenham to determine how many of Cheltenham’s existing bins can be retro-fitted with gull-proof flaps, or changes to the aperture (opening). When litter bins are due to be replaced, they should be replaced with gull-proof bins and the Cabinet should consider whether ‘Belly Bins’ might be a value for money longer term investment;
  11. Replace the food waste storage bins at the Swindon Road depot and ensure the ‘spotting compound’ is cleared frequently. Review if moving the food waste bins into the shed area makes a difference during the nesting season 2019;
  12. Place a condition on any new planning consent for takeaways (in new buildings or change of use applications) that they must provide a gull-proof bin outside of the premises;
  13. Place a condition on licensing permissions for mobile catering units that they have a gull-proof bin whilst trading;
  14. Through the planning process seek to ‘design out’ opportunity sites for gulls to nest on new buildings, either by the design of roofs, or conditions seeking gull-proofing;
  15. Produce a Supplementary Planning Document (as B&NES and Gloucester City Councils have) with advice on gull-proofing buildings;
  16. Work alongside the Cheltenham BID and other business organisations to consider the possibility of sponsorship of gull-proof litter bins;
  17. Work with the BID and other business organisations to encourage traders to present their waste correctly;
  18. Receive feedback from Cheltenham BID on how effective the red and white chequer boards were;
  19. CBC should produce an educational leaflet aimed at town centre and commercial businesses, to be distributed via email by the BID, as well as other interested business organisations around January time.

WHAT THE RESEARCH GROUP SAID

The group was made up Mrs Sudbury, councillor Tim Harman (C, Park) and councillor Dilys Barrell (LD, Park).

A report written by the group said: “The impact on the mental well-being of people affected by the noise of the gulls during the nesting season is considerable, as expressed by people to the Task Group. There is also concern about the mess created by gulls and the risk of diseases being spread. As the visitor economy is significant in
Cheltenham, with leisure and retail important as well as the hospitality sector, there is concern that the disturbance during the nesting season may be negatively impacting on visitor’s experience of staying in our town.

“If nothing is done by CBC to control the urban gull population, it could grow exponentially. This is because of the long life span of gulls, the relative safety of nesting in Cheltenham, plentiful food sources, the social nature of gulls, and the fact that each breeding pair can rear up to three chicks a year. This would be detrimental to the quality of life of local residents and could impact negatively on the visitor experience during the breeding season.”

Cheltenham Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee will be handed the report on November 26, from 6pm.

 

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