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Public meeting on urban gull problems in Elgin could still go ahead

Urban gull problems are continuing to plague Elgin residents.
Urban gull problems are continuing to plague Elgin residents.

A meeting to discus ways of dealing with the urban gull menace in Elgin is likely to go ahead, but not in time to address issues with the birds this year.

The town’s community council has been trying to arrange for a representative from NatureScot to attend a public meeting and hear concerns from residents since the beginning of the year.

In March the agency, responsible for improving the country’s natural environment, apologised to the group for failing to reply to their emails and phone calls.

And last month NatureScot said they did not have “capacity” within their team to attend an event.

However, at a meeting of Elgin Community Council on Tuesday chairman Alastair Kennedy said he had been contacted by Chris Donald, area manager for south Highland with NatureScot, offering to help.

Gulls at Doocot Park in Elgin.

Mr Kennedy said: “I had a long conversation with him and he wants Moray Council to have a gull policy. That would help in the future if there was a need to have nests and eggs removed.”

While all six Elgin councillors, voted in during last week’s local government elections, agreed a meeting should be arranged, there were some concerns.

Labour member for Elgin South John Divers said: “It’s interesting he wants the council to bring a policy back, because for years we’ve been dictated to by them.

“It’s them that’s been stopping us dealing with the gulls.”

NatureScot ‘dictated’ gull rules

Graham Leadbitter, SNP councillor for Elgin South said: “I want to see what the implications are.

“If this is something that’s going to cost £500,000 that would be difficult.”

Herring gulls are a protected species as their numbers are declining nationally, although in Elgin the birds seem to be on the increase.

There have been incidents where they have attacked people, including one where a woman needed stitches.

Last year carcasses of dead birds that had been run over were strewn in streets around the town centre.

£44,000 for gull proof bins

It is illegal to destroy eggs, chicks or nests without a licence, and in recent years the local authority has used one to have them removed from buildings.

However, tightening up of the licensing rules by NatureScot means it is individual property owners or occupiers who need to apply for a licence as opposed to one covering a designated area.

Also, homeowners are encouraged to install bird prevention measures to deter the gulls before more direct action is taken.

Moray Council has committed to spending £44,000 on gull proof bins and a further £2,000 on an education programme aimed at encouraging people not to feed them.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Kennedy said: “I’m pleased all the elected members signed up to it. It’s a positive step.

Chairman of Elgin Community Council Alastair Kennedy.

“We’re setting up a meeting with the councillors, people from the community council, Elgin Bid, the relevant officers from the council and a representative from NatureScot. I’d like to get that sorted in the next couple of weeks.

“I’m hoping it will be a stepping stone for a public meeting, because we have to get the public on board and encouraging them not to feed the gulls.”

Any measures agreed are not expected to be introduced until next year.

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