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More action needed to tackle Elgin and Moray's gull menace, says Labour Councillor John Divers

By Chris Saunderson

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MORE needs to be done to tackle Elgin's seagull problem.

Seagulls are a habitual problem in Moray towns.
Seagulls are a habitual problem in Moray towns.

That's the view of Elgin City South Councillor John Divers.

At a meeting of Elgin Community Council, Elgin Councillors, and NatureScot, a senior official from NatureScot confirmed that moss on roofs not only serves as a source for nesting material and food for gulls, it also serves as a landing pad which attracts gulls which might otherwise be deterred by slippery roofs.

Cllr Divers, speaking at Wednesday's meeting of the Moray Council’s housing and community safety committee, criticised the failure to commit resources to moss removal on council-owned properties.

“When Cllr (Graham) Leadbitter and I did a site walkabout with the housing officer, it was a point that was highlighted all around Bezack Street, Murray Street, Millar Street, Robertson Drive area, yet, here we are talking about maybe next year, maybe the year after.

Elgin Councillor John Divers.
Elgin Councillor John Divers.
"This is a priority identified by the New Elgin East Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) action plan that appears to be having no work done on it.”

The Labour member was also critical of the change in NatureScot’s licensing policy, which prevents Moray Council from applying for general licenses for egg and nest removal across local areas.

Cllr Divers said the programme of egg and nest removal “was going well until NatureScot stopped us getting licenses this year”.

He said there were notably fewer complaints from residents during the period of egg and nest removal, but fears this progress will be reversed as a consequence of this change in policy.

A NatureScot spokesperson said: “We understand the frustration that many people have in towns and cities with the disturbance that gulls can cause.

"That’s not to say that nothing can be done, however, all breeding birds are protected by law, and many people are surprised to hear that most breeding gull populations are declining, so a specific licence for lethal control of gulls must be applied for.

"There has been no change in NatureScot policy this year. Before we issue a licence, however, we look at what alternatives are available. Lethal control is always a last resort.

“It is the local council or landowner which is responsible for taking forward mitigation measures or any licensed control work. There are mitigation measures that do not require a licence, such as installing nets and spikes, which can be applied in some circumstances and while these measures can be very effective, there are circumstances where that is not the case.

"Developing plans to discourage gull nesting in urban areas is one of the areas we are keen to explore where there are significant issues.

"We are discussing gull issues with Moray council and providing advice on how this can be managed.”

Due to population declines, greater black backed gulls, lesser black backed gulls and herring gulls were removed from the relevant General Licence in 2020 due to conservation concerns and since then a specific licence for must be applied for lethal control of gulls, which could include removal of nests and eggs, pre-fledged chicks or adult gulls.

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