Residents’ fury as hawk fails to rid market menace
BEWARE of the seagulls! With their squawking, aerial bombardments and in some cases even dive bombing, the birds have become a rather unlikely urban menace for residents living near Church Street market in Marylebone.
Despite the council spending more than £1,000 of taxpayers’ money on hiring the services of a hawk, the flock of gulls are proving unexpectedly obstinate and are holding out against all comers on the rooftop of Morris House.
Residents and councillors in the area are calling for urgent action on what they say is becoming a “serious health hazard” as well as a noisy nuisance.
Some even predict the gull-infestation could push residents into air gun vigilantism.
Local councillors have also questioned the value paying for the bird of prey in the first place, which – given the fact the seagulls remain – now looks like an expensive mistake by CityWest Homes, the private company that manages the block on behalf of Westminster Council.
The birds have been living on top of the block for the last two years.
They are drawn to the area by the smell of fresh fish from market stalls below the block, and traders have been accused of not doing enough to prevent the seagull takeover.
Aziz Toki, a labour councilor for Church Street ward said: “As the seagulls have become established, so their colony has enlarged, and a readily available food source is provided by Church Street market, located nearby.
“Not only do the birds create a problem of noise from their calling but also by their scuffling and heavy footsteps. In addition, the birds’ droppings and nesting materials are a health hazard and have the potential to cause roof damage.”
One resident who asked to remain anonymous, said she had once counted 40 seagulls outside her window.
She said: “Sometimes at 4am you hear a giant ‘bong’ as they come out of the chimney pots. It reverberates around my whole flat.
“You can’t shoot them, you can’t kill them because of animal rights. What can you do?”
Ian Simmons, a fishmonger at the market hit back at criticism, saying it was now a breeding problem. “I don’t know how anybody can blame the fishmongers. These seagulls are inbred, they breed here and have done for years – they don’t come here just because we turn up with fish once a week.
“Back in the old days the council would just shoot them. Why can’t they just do that now?”
Despite the lack of sea breeze, seagulls have been on the rise in urban areas since 2000, attracted by comparative warmth, guaranteed food from refuse bins and the lack of any natural predators.
They are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
A spokeswoman for CityWest Homes said they were urgently seeking a solution.
She said: CityWest Homes trialled the services of a hawk, which gave local people some much needed respite. The hawk was used on 10 occasions between May and June at a cost of £1,100.
“We had hoped the seagulls would have been deterred from coming back, but they are clearly very resilient. We are actively trying to find a solution to the problem and exploring all options that are humane as well as cost effective.
“Gulls are also protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”
Phillip Robson, Westminster Council’s waste and recycling manager, said: “The gulls have proved to be a nuisance for the local area and we need a long term cost-effective solution, which tackles the source of the problem.
“They are obviously attracted by the waste from the market and we are working closely with traders to ensure food waste is not simply discarded in the street.”
• Additional reporting by Alex Walters