German commissioners have moved to calm a row over an 81-year-old woman feeding seagulls in St John’s.
The woman was asked to agree to an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) which would exclude her from feeding birds in stipulated areas.
An ABC is an early intervention (generally following two warnings but prior to an Anti-Social Behaviour Order) made against individuals who are perceived to be engaging in anti-social behaviour.
Online posts claimed the woman was being treated unfairly and sparked an angry debate with more than 1,200 comments.
Police said the issue had got out of hand and that ‘inaccurate’ information had started the row.
Captain of the Parish, John Kennaugh, described some online comments as ‘very hurtful’ and said: ‘There was an area just inside the zone that she asked about and we were happy to let her feed the birds there. We left the best of friends. There was never any pressure to sign an agreement, I know the lady well, her love of wildlife is commendable.
‘But people can’t put children in their garden, can’t have a meal, can’t put washing out.
‘Our policy as commissioners is always to go to see people first. We’re back at square one now but it has to be resolved.’
In a statement the commissioners said: ‘We would like to take this opportunity to correct the misinformation published on the website and Facebook page of the Mann Cat Sanctuary.
‘There has been an ongoing issue with excessively feeding seagulls within Balladoyne and at other locations in the village such as Tynwald Mills and the Arboretum for 15 years.
‘It has not arisen due to feeding a “few” birds and ducks but feeding hundreds of seagulls, from 5am until 10pm.
‘There have been numerous requests from neighbours to stop feeding the seagulls. Recently a three-year-old was attacked in Balladoyne for food and required treatment for the scratches caused by the seagull.
‘We have taken a number of actions to try to resolve this issue over the years.
‘Following a request from the commissioners, an environmental officer first visited the woman in 2005 and had subsequently visited on a number of occasions and written to her, after consulting with Dr Richard Selman who is the senior bio-diversity officer at DEFA, advising on feeding the seagulls.
‘There has also been 18 visits from pest control to Balladoyne in recent years.
‘The Commissioners continue to receive complaints around this issue on a regular basis.’