SHORT DEBATES

29 July 2004

MANAGING WILDLIFE: Seagulls, Badgers, etc.
Robert Randall, Bath Natural History Society; Peter Hancocks, Wildlife Consultant;

Alan Barrett, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

SIGNS IN BATH  .
Brian Cassidy, The Bath Society

A MODERN & FAIR DEMOCRACY?
Robin Anderson, Chairman, Charter 88 - Bath.

MANAGING WILDLIFE
The background to this debate was the growing number of seagulls nesting in Bath that act aggressively whilst their young are hatching. Rob Randall first discussed the more general subject of pest control, considering plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals.

Plant pests may be introduced by man, like the giant hogweed and aquatic exotica removed from garden ponds, or they may be rampant native plants like ragwort.

Invertebrates are controlled by insecticides, but these are eaten by birds and affect their survival.

The two main bird pests in towns are pigeons and seagulls. The Pigeon Control Advisory Service offer advice – basically, 'don't feed them' – on www.pecas.org.uk. Seagulls were dealt with separately later.

Mammals include grey squirrels, which eat birds' eggs; mink that have escaped from fur farms; badgers, the major problem, as possible carriers of bovine TB; and foxes that spread mange to dogs in towns.

The Wildlife Conservation Unit at Oxford has been studying badgers in many trial areas in England. Thirty years of government sponsored research has not settled whether badgers carry TB to cattle.

There are 500 breeding pairs of herring gulls or black-back gulls in Bath, although, Alan Bennett stated that nationally, the numbers have decreased by 40% over 20 years, perhaps because of the decline of the fishing industry. Seagulls are legally protected and can only be killed to prevent spread of diseases that affects public health and after obtaining a licence from DEFRA; noise, nuisance or damage to property are not acceptable reasons to kill them. (It was suggested their droppings on the pavement could be a health hazard.) Nesting can be discouraged by use of wires but the key method of reducing their number is to stop providing food, including waste in bin bags they can tear open. Oiling their eggs destroys the chicks and is applied on local authority buildings.

Peter Hancocks then explained the legal position on these animals. Licences are required for killing any animal and in general are only granted if there is a hazard to human health. Bovine TB is wide-spread now and killing all the badgers in an area has been shown to spread it rather than reduce it – badgers move in to the cleared area and multiply more quickly than the original setts, who controlled their numbers to suit the food available. The few humans who now die from bovine TB are those who drank milk in the 1920s and 30s, before pasteurisation was introduced nationally.

2 ROAD SIGNS IN BATH

The first traffic sign was erected in 1904 and the first three-colour traffic signal 77 years ago. They have both bred rapidly ever since. Mr Cassidy illustrated some examples of unnecessary or visually intrusive signs and suggested how these could be improved. There has been some improvement since his last survey four years ago but more could still be achieved.

Nobody knew what 'Pedestrian Priority' meant in reality and the various 'zones' recently introduced to direct delivery lorries around the central area had signs people found confusing.

As time was running short, no discussion took place.

3  A MODERN & FAIR DEMOCRACY?

Robin Anderson gave a brief history of this campaigning group since its formation in 1988 to protect and improve our democratic system of government. Some reforms had been achieved but there was now an increasing need to guard our freedoms from increasing bureaucracy. He considered the proposed introduction of identity cards required particularly careful attention to ensure the information put on them was only available to the appropriate people. The earlier debates had demonstrated the need for the public to have control over how decisions were implemented.

Donald Lovell