OSWESTRY councillors have agreed to enlist the help of birds of prey to rid the town of pesky pigeons.
Harry Hamilton, of Close Encounters, from St Martins, will be given the task of taking his pet birds of prey around the town as part of a pigeon deterrent programme, costing around £4,500 a year.
The programme was discussed by councillors at last week’s Amenities Committee meeting and it was agreed that following a positive trial with Mr Hamilton in June, where his twice-weekly visits around the town and Cae Glas Park saw an “astonishing” reduction in pigeon numbers, the deterrent programme should go ahead.
But councillors suggested reducing the amount of visits Mr Hamilton makes with his birds – a Harris Hawk, Common Buzzard, European Eagle Owl or a Peregrine Falcon – and schedule the visits only when they agree it is necessary.
Oswestry Town Mayor Chris Schofield said: “I think we are taking this lightly. It is a major problem especially in Cross Street where flocks of them are going around.
“It’s not a laughing matter when you have children in the town and there is a risk of them getting pigeon muck on them.”
Mr Hamilton makes five visits per month on average at a cost of £75 per visit but is unable to carry out the walks if the weather is unsuitable.
He takes the bird around and its presence frightens away the birds. No pigeons are harmed in the process.
Fears that some of the empty shops in the town centre were attracting pigeons to roost were also brought up, in particular the former Bewise building on Cross Street.
Cllr Martin Bennett said: “I would urge all concerned citizens of Oswestry to contact the owners and urge the owners to put that building into a proper state of repair.”
Cllr Paul Milner added: “I think it is worth writing to other councils. The problem will get worse before it gets better but I think people who own the shops should take responsibility for this problem because their businesses are causing this.”
It was also noted that pigeons have been eating the bedding plants in Cae Glas Park.
Cllr Cynthia Hawksley said: “It has been a problem since the bedding plants were put in and we need to stop them being in the park.”
Councillors agreed to review the number of visits made and schedule them in relation to when planting takes place.
Cllr Sandy Best added: “Other deterrents used to be to remove eggs from the nest, which was curtailed the reproduction of them.
“But I suggest we don’t reduce the amount of work this man is doing.”
Cllr Bennett added that the amount of pigeons in the town cost £2,500 in 2012 when the ledges of the Guildhall on Bailey Head had to be power-washed to tackle waste build-up that had blocked drainage systems and caused leaks into the building.
One option to deter pigeons at the Guildhall was to install netting on the roof for £23,000.Councillors also raised concerns that members of the public were buying corn to feed pigeons on Festival Square which is attracting rats at night.