Seagulls: Urban Areas

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 11th February 2022.

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Photo of Lord Foster of Bath Lord Foster of Bath Chair, Rural Economy Committee, Chair, Rural Economy Committee

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any health problems created by urban gulls as a result of an increase in numbers and spread inland; and what discussions they have had with Natural England about re-instating rooftop-nesting Herring gulls and Lesser black-back gulls on the General Licence to allow local councils to address any such problems.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Defra recognises that there are instances where herring gull and lesser black-backed gull may cause public health and public safety issues, particularly in urban areas. It has been assessed that these species are not appropriate for control through General Licence, due to their red and amber conservation status. However, to address some of the public health and safety concerns in urban areas, last year Natural England piloted an Organisational Licence with Worcester and Bath and North East Somerset Council. These licences allow councils to address specific public health and safety risks caused by these species.

Organisational Licences are more suitable for Local Authorities experiencing a higher-than-average number of public health and safety incidents on a wide scale and its therefore likely these towns or cities have higher gull populations. Natural England will make use of local gull survey information and population viability analysis to calculate a sustainable number of gulls that can be controlled at these Organisational Licence-wide scales. Where local authorities can provide evidence that their gull populations are growing, Natural England will allow an increased number of eggs and nest removals.

These licences aim to help authorities deal with the most severe public health risks posed to residents by nesting gulls, whilst ensuring that any lethal control by the destruction of eggs and nests remains lawful, justified, and proportionate. Local authorities possessing an organisational licence will no longer need to seek advance approval from Natural England to address certain specific public health and safety risks. This approach will be made available across England this year for areas that are suitable for these licences.

For other specific circumstances, individual Licences are also available to control gulls for the purpose of preserving public health and safety where necessary.

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