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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Pigeons 'affecting town's business'
Traders want Gravesend folk to stop feeding their feathered friends

Traders and councillors say people are being put off shopping in Gravesend by pigeons.

They say bird-lovers feeding pigeons have brought so many of them to the town centre, people are staying away.

The owner of a local market says the mess the birds make is stopping people spending their money there.

Meanwhile, the council has launched a campaign aimed at making people realise what effect throwing food to the birds could have on the town's economy.

But that has not stopped rows breaking out over the best way to reduce the pigeon population.

Pigeons 'don't mix well'

Nigel Knight, whose company Gravesend Space Management owns the town's market, told the BBC the pigeons were affecting trade.

He said: "Pigeons come here in large numbers and they make a mess.

"They don't mix very well - pigeon mess is either wet and slippery or it's dry and powdery and either way it discourages people from coming here.

They may look very attractive at a distance but they discourage business and they are a nuisance
Councillor Lee Croxton

"Feeding is the key to it, there are people who like to feed the pigeons, which is fine, I would just want them to do it somewhere else."

Councillor Lee Croxton of Gravesham Borough Council said: "They are a major pest and health hazard.

"They may look very attractive at a distance but they discourage business and they are a nuisance.

'Persistent offenders'

"If the vast majority of people try to work together to discourage the feeding of pigeons their numbers will humanely fall.

"There will be persistent offenders, we've got to talk to them and try and educate them."

Pigeons in Gravesend
Gravesend's pigeons are fed in open spaces like the market place

The Pigeon Control Advisory Service says culling encourages more breeding and recommends a combination of deterrent spikes, removal of food left out for pigeons and taking eggs from specially-built pigeon cotes.

Local animal charity North Kent Animal Welfare agrees with these ideas and wants the council to build cotes - small lofts in buildings where pigeons would be encouraged to lay eggs - so they can be removed regularly to stop them being hatched.

But the council is adamant the only way forward is to stop people feeding the birds.

Cllr Croxton said: "We've investigated every other solution including putting up cotes and removing eggs.

"None of them work and the only way we will reduce the pigeon population is if the residents of Gravesend stop feeding them."

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