Mairianna Clyde: City needs to continue gull de-nesting plan

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It was very disappointing to learn that the city’s transport and environment committee voted down the gull de-nesting pilot.

Campaigners for a city-wide gull taskforce in tenement areas had worked for 13 years to get council action and when a petition in the Polwarth area collected nearly 500 signatures in a couple of weeks, the previous council administration was prepared to listen.

Locals plagued by noisy, aggressive gulls then noticed considerable improvement when it was successfully trialled, with 107 nests and 165 eggs removed by two council staff over five days.

Now, the Capital’s coalition, which claims to listen, has decided to put a stopper on a successful project.

Why?

It claims it’s too expensive, a “low priority”, but the only additional expense was printing to leaflet the neighbourhood.

Polwarth is a high density area, and the council tax raised per hectare is one of the highest in the city.

Don’t we deserve something back for the amount of council tax we pay?

Moray Council, East Lothian Council, and Dumfries and Galloway Council provide free gull
de-nesting services.

In my view, since Edinburgh became a unitary authority in the mid-1990s, it has become increasingly remote and disdainful of its citizens.

It has taken on ambitious and prestigious infrastructure projects like the trams – which nobody ever wanted and which it struggles to administer – while the bothersome, unglamorous detail of local government, gulls, parks, potholes, dog mess, drains, rats, traffic lights, bins – the petty problems besetting ordinary people in their everyday lives – are too “low priority” for ambitious councillors to take seriously.

Community councils, unpaid volunteers, struggle to take forward action on such local issues.

The gull de-nesting pilot was led by Merchiston Community Council, which attempts to represent 20,000 residents on a grant of £846 a year.

To be slapped down by a high-powered committee too taken up with the £750 million tram project spiralling out of control to be bothered with “low-priority” issues shows plainly the diseconomies of scale and the disparities of power that have resulted from the unitary authority system.

Power and resources need to be devolved downwards, or citizen discontent and council inefficiency will worsen.

Public scrutiny of council spending should also be greater.

The coalition’s proposal for a chargeable £70 de-nesting service is a sham offer and an insult to people’s intelligence.

It will not help people in tenements (where gulls are concentrated) since individual action on single properties is pointless.

Gulls form colonies across neighbourhoods, so several streets will probably need to be done.

Multiple treatments will be required as gulls will attempt to
re-nest.

The nature of the problem and its solution requires public action.

Why should people be asked to pay for a useless £70 de-nesting treatment provided by a pest control service already owned and paid for by the public purse?

The council should admit it provides no solution for the worst-affected areas.

But citizens are not daft.

When this pointless “service” was “offered” in 2002, only 15 requests were received between 2006 and 2009.

A two-man council team de-nesting a tenement area for five days from April to July is, however, cheap and effective.

Why is that so difficult?

n Mairianna Clyde is chair of
Merchiston Community Council

COSTS MEAN IT’S DOWN PECKING ORDER

CITY council chiefs insist that they cannot afford to continue or expand the pilot project which removed gull nests from rooftops.

The issue has been a long-running one, with residents complaining the birds create a “horrendous noise” and have even been known to attack people and pets.

But a report to the transport and environment committee said that funding for the pilot project, which had cost £9000, had run dry.

Residents questioned the cost as no specialist staff or equipment were hired to carry out the project – and it included a £2,250 roof survey which would not need to be done again.

The city’s environment leader, Lesley Hinds, acknowledged the pilot project had been successful but said it was a question of priorities.

And she said she believed the problem was not as big as before, as fewer rubbish bags on the street had led to a reduction in the number of gulls.