Belfast Council looking at ways to tackle pigeon feeding problems in the city

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Belfast City Council is to look at ways of tackling nuisance pigeon feeding after a committee heard reports of children being unable to play outside due to pigeon poo.

At a meeting of the council’s People and Communities Committee at City Hall Sinn Féin Councillor Geraldine McAteer raised an item on the agenda on the feeding of pigeons as a public health nuisance.

She said: “I am sure other councillors get emails from constituents about the problems associated with people feeding pigeons on an extremely regular basis, and the build up of pigeons around houses.

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“It is causing a lot of problems in terms of their ordinary daily life. I have an email here from a lady who basically says that her children when they were toddlers couldn’t use their outdoors space because of the excrement from pigeons, and the amount of feathers.

Pigeons on the roof of a buildingPigeons on the roof of a building
Pigeons on the roof of a building

“Currently they have to carry out very regular cleaning to reduce all the excrement, on exterior furniture and toys, to make it safer for their small children to play. They have spent a lot of money to have the roof cleaned quite a number of times, and has attracted multiple mice infestations. They are not able to enjoy the amenities of their own home.”

She added: “I have had quite a number of these emails. It is an environmental health issue. This has to do with the health and indeed wellbeing of constituents.” She asked officers what powers the council had to tackle the problem.

DUP Councillor Tracy Kelly said: “I get this on quite a regular basis, it happens especially in inner city communities. We grew up feeding the pigeons, and children love it.

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“This is not only attracting pigeons, it is attracting vermin, and seagulls are becoming a bigger issue in the inner city and city centre. But I don’t know what to say to constituents, because on one hand you have someone that likes to throw a piece of bread, but another person who says they don’t want it on their door.”

Councillor McAteer said: “People are feeding so intensively that it is causing problems with their neighbours.”

A council officer said a report would be brought back on the issue before the committee. She said: “In the legislation that currently exists, there is nothing about feeding pigeons. There is nuisance legislation, which is part of Clean Neighbourhoods, but it has to be at a level where it is actionable in court, that is, beyond reasonable doubt criminal behaviour.

“Just as with noise, it has to be provable that one house is affecting another. The standard to be reached, insofar as it is an accumulation really affecting a person’s health from one house to another, would be very high.”

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She said she would look at the numbers of complaints coming through the system in a new report and bring an update on legislation.

In February Ards and North Down Borough Council agreed to draft a by-law to control the feeding of pigeons in Conway Square, Newtownards. Fines issued as a penalty for contravention will be as high as £500.

The by-law would only be actionable in the council owned section of the square, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the area. Application of a by-law for the entire square would be subject to agreement with the Stormont Department for Infrastructure.

A similar by-law exists for Trafalgar Square, by the Greater London Authority, which states “No person other than a person acting at the direction of the Mayor shall within the Square– (a) feed any bird (which shall include dropping or casting feeding stuff for birds); or (b) distribute any feeding stuff for birds.”