A BY-LAW should be introduced to prevent people feeding gulls in Whitby, according to one town councillor.
Should the order be introduced fines of up to £500 could be imposed on anyone caught feeding the birds.
If this fine remains unpaid, the case then becomes a criminal offence, allowing lawbreakers to be taken to court, where a custodial jail sentence is among the available punishments.
Town councillor Noreen Wilson first suggested the idea at Whitby Town Council’s latest full meeting and said: “I think sea gulls do cause a problem, caused by people feeding them.
“People have been asked not to do it and there are signs up but they’re not working.
“I think if you had a by-law to make it an offence to feed them it would discourage them.
“If it’s possible I would propose it.”
Local authorities are empowered to create by-laws which can carry a maximum penalty of up to £500.
A poll on the Gazette’s Facebook page received 152 votes in just 24 hours, with only 12% stating that a legislation preventing gulls being fed would be a bad idea.
All local authorities are empowered with the ability to decide by-laws, in consultation with their local community.
They can be considered in cases where the authority has been unable to address the problem through other measures, such as the signs that are posted around Whitby deterring people from feeding the gulls.
However, these signs have been largely ignored by visitors to the town, and town councillor John Dickinson said that he would support any extra measures that could be put in place.
He said: “It should be common sense not to feed flying vermin.
“I saw a nine-year-old attacked for her fish which fell to the floor.
“The poor girl started crying and the mother played war with her and kicked the fish to the sea gull.
“I told the mother what had happened and that it was not the poor child’s fault, and she had just rewarded the villain.”
By-laws are seen by the department for communities and local government as a last resort, but many people see the gulls as a problem that is only getting worse and there appears to be no other viable solution.
In 2003 the City of London introduced a by-law that made it illegal to feed pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
The then mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said that pigeon droppings had caused around £140,000 of damage to Nelson’s Column and the surrounding area.
The move was attributed to a reduction in pigeon numbers from 4,000 at lunchtimes to just 200.
Coun Wilson added that the introduction of a similar by-law in Whitby’s town centre may reap the same rewards, although it would never be the complete solution.
She said: “I think it just reinforces the idea of not feeding them.
“There are enough people who are law-abiding that mean it would be an extra discouragement.”
If the local authority decides it would like to impose of by-law it must apply to the department for communities and local government for approval.
The application would then be advertised in the Gazette, which would give local residents a one-month period in which they can send their objections in.
Following this, the council then applies to the department for confirmation and the by-law, if confirmed, will come into force a month later.