Every year, residents in Bath and parts of North East Somerset are plagued by urban gulls nesting and raising their young on our rooftops. This year, a new licensing regime imposed by Natural England saw far fewer nests removed, resulting in a jump in gull numbers.
With the reduction of visitors during lockdown, gulls ranged much further afield in search of food. However, gulls return to the same nests for much of their 30-year lifespan, so residents are facing a growing problem over the coming years unless something is done.
I told the Minister that Natural England has put the wellbeing of urban gulls above the health and wellbeing of the human residents of our city. They have raised the bar of proof of health impacts so high as to make it almost impossible to get permission to have nests removed. It’s simply gone too far. Cities are not the natural environment for gulls, and if their coastal population is falling, then let’s look at habitat restoration, not the reduction of the quality of human life in cities.
It remains the case that people’s health is suffering from the lack of sleep induced by gull noise every spring, but Natural England simply responds by saying if it’s too noisy, close your windows and move your beds! On being told that gulls are dropping their faeces over garden furniture and children’s toys, they are saying wipe them! It is the professional opinion of our environmental health officers that these persistent events pose a genuine risk to health, and I find it offensive that their judgement is being dismissed in such a flippant manner.
Although the Minister was sympathetic to the health impacts on humans of a burgeoning gull population, the departmental position remains the same: herring Gulls are on the endangered red list.
The Minister has asked for the results of this year’s trial to be made available to her as soon as possible. She recognises that our situation is not unique and that other cities are suffering similarly, and that we have a shared responsibility to find a workable solution. So maybe something will change, but I can’t see that happening before the next breeding season starts, and that’s bad news for residents.