WIGAN Council has defended its zero-tolerance ban on littering after a cabinet member described feeding pigeons as “an environmental crime”.
The town hall hit out after a row was sparked by an 82-year-old woman being given a fixed penalty notice by a local authority enforcement officer after being spotted scattering bird food for the flocks in Leigh town centre.
Although the council has now rescinded the £50 fine following the incident on Bradshawgate on January 27, the town hall has been criticised by the pensioner’s family, who accused the officer of humiliating a frail, elderly resident and said a warning would have been sufficient.
However, the council has refused to back down on the issue, saying the birds carry diseases and their droppings cause damage to buildings.
The local authority revealed the pensioner has also been previously reprimanded for feeding Leigh’s pigeon population, and said she will face further action again if she does not stop providing food for them in the town centre.
Councillor Kevin Anderson, cabinet member for the environment, said: “Feeding pigeons is an environmental crime that encourages them to gather in large numbers and there are very real health effects resulting from this.
“Although the incidence of infection from pigeons is fairly rare, the fact remains that they carry disease, which can prove fatal for humans.
“Furthermore, each year pigeons cause millions of pounds worth of damage, destroying insulation in buildings, defacing surfaces and blocking pipes and gutters with droppings, which can lead to secondary damage such as wet rot.”
“This is not the first time we have had issues with residents and visitors to the borough feeding the pigeons and it is important to reinforce that this is an environmental crime and there are notices in place to warn people that it is an offence to feed pigeons.
“Having reviewed the circumstances surrounding this case, we have decided that on this occasion we will cancel the ticket and the penalty fine. I hope this will be seen as a genuine gesture of goodwill on behalf of the council.
“However, this is not the first occasion she has been warned about feeding pigeons. She has been made aware it is considered an environmental crime and should she be caught feeding pigeons again it will need to be dealt with.”
Pigeons are regarded as a health risk because they carry ornithosis, a flu-like disease which has seen a rise in cases in the UK since the mid-1970s.
Inhalation of dust from the bird’s droppings can also cause psittacosis a potentially fatal type of pneumonia.
Other authorities across Britain have already resorted to draconian measures to remove pigeons from public spaces such as Trafalgar Square, where the Greater London Authority passed a law banning feeding them, brought in birds of prey and sent council workers with cleaning machines to remove grain and food from the area.