Feeding pigeons in County Down town could lead to £500 fine as council brings in new law to tackle feathered menace

A new by-law is to be introduced in a County Down town to forbid the feeding of pigeons.
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Elected representatives in a committee at Ards and North Down Borough Council have agreed to draft a by-law controlling the feeding of pigeons in Conway Square, Newtownards. Fines issued as a penalty for contravention could be as high as £500 under current legislation.

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.

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The decision follows a motion that was passed by the council in 2022. It stated: “Given the public health issues and the desire to encourage outdoor eating and entertainment in Conway Square, officers (will) look at humane means to address the pigeon problem, to include a new bylaw to prohibit feeding of the birds in and around the square.”

Feeding pigeons could lead to a £500 fine under new lawFeeding pigeons could lead to a £500 fine under new law
Feeding pigeons could lead to a £500 fine under new law

Since the motion was agreed, signage was erected in Conway Square, advising the public that feeding of pigeons is prohibited, but the problem of high numbers of pigeons has continued unabated. A similar by-law exists for Trafalgar Square in London.

A report for the Ards and North Down Council Environment Committee this month states: “Since 2016 the Neighbourhood Environment Team has received one complaint from the public – although the Environmental Health Service has received complaints concerning persons feeding feral pigeons in Conway Square.

“The cleansing section does receive occasional requests to clean pigeon droppings or remove dead birds from the area. Feral pigeons are common in the urban environment and although they are mostly considered to be no more than a nuisance, they can potentially pose a health risk.

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“Council officers have not received any evidence of such issues in this instance. Pigeons and their droppings can also cause damage to the buildings where they perch due to the corrosive nature of pigeon droppings.”

It adds: “A seemingly effective way of discouraging feral pigeons from infesting buildings and public areas is to not feed them and remove any potential food source.”

At the council Environment Committee meeting, DUP Alderman Naomi Armstrong-Cotter proposed the new by-law. She said: “Anyone who shops in Newtownards will know that probably the only thing that mars our town are the pigeons at certain times.

“They are encouraged by people that just don’t seem to get that feeding the pigeons not only harms the pigeon, but also can result in them having their lunch ruined as they get the pigeon’s leftovers all over them.”

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SDLP Councillor Joe Boyle sounded a cautious note about the new by-law. He said: “Sometimes as a council we can embarrass ourselves enough without taking a person to court for feeding a pigeon. I’m not sure what the reaction would be from the public on that.”

He added: “It never really bounced out at me as a major issue, and reading the report it doesn’t bounce out at the council as a major issue, from complaints (we have had).”

He said: “It would nearly be unmanageable for us as a council to walk around Conway Square and start fining people for feeding pigeons. And it slightly concerns me that we are introducing a by-law for an area 40 percent of which we don’t own.”

All parties in the council committee agreed to the by-law proposal, without a vote, though it was noted Independent Councillor Ray McKimm objected to the proposal. It will go to the full council meeting next month for ratification.