Residents of a town say their centre has been turned into a mess of bird poo due to all the seagulls and pigeons. And they say they can’t understand why plans to introduce a hawk to scare off nuisance birds have been dropped.
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) was preparing to bring in the bird of prey to combat the “growing number” of seagulls and pigeons in the area. But following a review of the idea, bosses at the authority say they now believe there is an “insufficient need” for the move.
The u-turn has sparked anger among business owners in the council-owned Park Mall shopping centre, where pigeons nest in the roof above a number of shops. Vince Monticelli, owner of The Record Store in Park Mall, feels introducing a hawk would have improved the look of the town centre.
“Pigeons and seagulls are only an issue for me in the impression it gives the customer,” he said.
“You walk around and they are cooing above you. All the babies are squawking and then they could poo on you. I think they are an issue and the council probably should’ve got the hawk. Kent County Council pays for a hawk at the tip on the Cobbs Wood Industrial Estate.”
ABC, now run by an Ashford Independents/Green Party coalition, first discussed plans for the hawk in April last year and said the bird would be brought into the town centre on a weekly basis.
They said a bird handler would walk around with the hawk on their arm, making an “interesting attraction” for shoppers who could see the bird up close.
A trial was due to run over a four-month period to allow bosses to measure the difference, but the authority now says it is ‘keeping the situation under review’.
A spokesman said: “We have researched carefully and following consultation with relevant stakeholders and local businesses we believe at this time there is an insufficient need for a hawk service to be introduced to the town centre.”
But Russell Geen, owner of The Little Teapot in Park Mall, thinks the bird of prey would have kept the town cleaner and help cut costs for the council.
“I don’t see why they couldn’t get it in for a couple of days a month,” he said.
“Once pigeons and seagulls know there is a hawk here, they won’t bother coming back. There is no netting in parts of Park Mall to deter them so they come here as they have shelter and food.
“I would have thought getting a hawk in would be cheaper than running netting everywhere it needs to be. It would cost thousands.”
But Connor Moon, a staff member at Simply Vape, next to Starbucks in the high street, says the birds are not causing any issues.
“It wouldn’t be a good idea,” he said.
“The birds don’t do us any harm, I’ve never noticed any bird mess on the windows of the shop.
“They all gather outside the shop in the high street because people often sit and feed them.
“If the council wants to reduce the number of birds here it could put signs up asking people not to feed them. Some people may be scared of a hawk.
“Pigeons aren’t an issue and if a hawk was brought in, it could stop some people coming here altogether.”
A member of staff at Park Mall-based Made in Ashford said: “We had problems with pigeons outside the shop a year ago but it’s not as bad now.
“They might have moved somewhere else now so I don’t think a hawk is needed.”