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Gulls terrorising Beccles residents

PUBLISHED: 16:54 06 August 2009 | UPDATED: 08:24 01 August 2010

IT could be a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film, The Birds.

Hundreds of gulls can be seen circling the skies, screeching and swooping low over the heads of helpless victims.

IT could be a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film, The Birds.

Hundreds of gulls can be seen circling the skies, screeching and swooping low over the heads of helpless victims.

Only this scene is being played out in real life in a Beccles neighbourhood that has found itself under fire from a plague of gulls.

Although less terrifying than the film, daily - and nightly - life is becoming unbearable for residents whose homes back on to a derelict factory site colonised by the birds.

Resident Phillip Page, 60, said the gulls return to their favourite nesting spot each year, with numbers now estimated to top 300.

“When the Fibrenyle factory was here there was no problem because of the noise - it kept them off,” he said. “But once they moved out the gulls just took over the roof.”

He said once the building was demolished the birds started to nest on the derelict land, bringing misery to the lives of the residents of Gosford Road and Fair Close.

“We've had it now for five or six years,” he said. “It's the mess and the noise - there's nothing unusual to hear them screeching from 3am onwards. It's got worse because the colony itself has increased. Every year there are more because the young ones come back to the same nesting area.”

Branding the gulls “rats of the sky”, Mr Page likened everyday life in the town centre neighbourhood to a scene from the 1963 Hitchcock thriller that revolves around flocks of birds terrorising a coastal community, adding: “This is it - we are in it.”

Mr Page said: “Frustrating is the word for it - we just don't know who to turn to to get some help.”

He added: “I think a cull is the only answer.”

Although it remains unclear who owns the land, Mr Page said he had contacted Waveney District Council, who told him it was unable to take action because the gulls were a protected species.

Margaret Capps, 66, whose garden gate backs on to the site, said the gulls arrive in spring to nest and stay through the summer, with a handful of “sentinels” left behind to guard the nesting spot through the winter months.

“The noise is horrific,” she said. “I don't suppose there's a quiet minute. In the summer I can't have my bedroom windows open - they get up at the crack of dawn and make a hell of a noise and wake me up.

“You go on holiday to the seaside and you expect it but even there you don't have to put up with this many.”

She said this was the worst time of year, when the adult birds take to the skies to encourage the chicks to fly.

“I love being out in my garden but in the end I have to come indoors because I can't bear the noise any longer,” she said. “Sometimes I get cranky.”

She added: “I wouldn't mind if they sang like blackbirds or robins, but you don't see a garden bird in my garden when they're about.”

Her neighbour, Justin Fuller, 65, agreed, saying: “When I was at work I didn't notice it very much. Now I'm retired you get it 24 hours a day.”

A spokesman from Natural England said that it issues a series of general licences to allow people to take action against wild birds which would otherwise be illegal.

She said: “Some of the licences cover herring gulls but people can only take action if they believe the licence covers the purpose for which they want to take action - such as preserving public health or safety.”

The spokesman added that undertaking works under any of the licences must only be carried out with the written permission of the landowner or occupier.

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