Update: Town council abandon plan to gas rabbits
A controversial plan to gas rabbits on Beccles Common has been abandoned.
Beccles Town Council had authorised a company to gas rabbits in three particular areas of the common in an effort to control their numbers, but after the contractor pulled out the council decided to move away from the idea.
Instead a ferreter is now the likely choice to help control the rabbit population, after the council gave the mayor and the town clerk power to decide what to do.
Earlier this year the council decided to use gas to cull the rabbits which it said had been causing 'irreparable damage' to the public land, but this move split opinion locally with many dog walkers and animal-lovers criticising the move.
Despite the complaints councillors again agreed to go ahead with the gassing, in a meeting in November, only for the contractor to pull out this month.
On Tuesday, at the last town council meeting of 2012, mayor Graham Catchpole told his fellow councillors that this local opposition had led the contractor to withdraw.
Mr Catchpole said: 'Because of the publicity surrounding that, the contractors withdrew as they decided they did not want to be involved in the common.'
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Instead Mr Catchpole asked councillors to give him and the town clerk the authority to decide on the 'most appropriate' course of action.
'In the circumstances the way is to go down the route of ferreting, which is recommended by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and one or two other bodies,' he said.
Councillor Jeffrey Harris asked if the council was being asked to give its approval to ferreting, as he was 'ill at ease' at giving the mayor and clerk power to decide.
He said: 'The town council has come in for significant criticism and I think if a decision is made one way or the other, it should be a decision from the whole council.'
He added: 'It seems to me the council is putting you (the mayor) and the town clerk up to decide on the method and I think it should be a decision for the whole council.'
Eight voted in favour of the proposal, five were against and three abstained, giving the town mayor and clerk the power to decide.
It now seems certain that a ferreter will be used, with the work hoping to start in January. This should save the council money, as the ferreter will not be paid for his service, instead he will be using the rabbits for food.
Speaking after the meeting, Patricia Read, a common rights holder, criticised the council's 'obsession' with the 'unnecessary' cull.
Mrs Read, of Grove Road, Beccles, said: 'The proposal of the cull being placed solely under the control of the mayor and the town clerk is extremely unsatisfactory and of great concern.'
Sue Doherty, of Kilbrack, Beccles, said that she was pleased that the gassing would not be going ahead, as she said it would have been 'absolutely terrible', and added that she didn't think ferreting would work.