£2,500 fine for feeding the ducks in Cambridgeshire
A council has been criticised for threatening nature lovers with fines of up to £2,500 if they feed ducks or geese outside a designated feeding area.
Officials have put up signs warning that the big fine can be levied under Section 87 of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act for unauthorised feeding of waterfowl in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
Locals have described the threat as ‘ludicrous’ and insist people should be able to feed ducks where they wish.
East Cambridgeshire District Council introduced a local by-law earlier to ban feeding on grass areas and pavements near the River Ouse in the city.
The council created designated feeding areas beside the river to encourage the birds to stay on the water and stop them fouling pavements and churning up grass areas.
The signs state that ducks and geese should be fed on the water only, not the land and warn that the £2,500 fine can be levied ‘for littering which includes the deposition of foodstuffs.’
Grandmother Justine Fox of Ely was horrified to see one of the signs on a lamppost beside the previously popular unauthorised feeding spot outside of Peacocks tearoom.
She said: “I thought the sign might have been a prank but it seems it isn’t. It’s absolutely ludicrous and just sums up the world we live in today if you ask me.
“My grandchildren love coming down to the river and feeding the ducks. We’re blessed in Ely to have so many different ducks, geese, swans, as well as lots of moorhens and coots.
“Feeding the ducks is one of those traditional, fun activities for families and I think the council forgets what a big hit these birds are with our tourists.”
Frank Pledger, 53, of nearby Little Thetford, said: “Once again, the wildlife is made to suffer.
“I can’t get my head around it. Just because someone might feed the ducks on a bit of grass they could be slapped with a fine? It’s pathetic.
“These birds have been here for years and we should live with them in harmony not keep going against them like the council seems to be doing.”
Dave White, the council’s waste team leader, said: “There has always been a great debate about ducks on Ely’s riverside, with residents and visitors increasingly commenting on the duck mess which they encounter every day.
“To help, we are encouraging people to feed ducks responsibly on the water, in the bird’s natural environment, rather than on the pavement.
“Considerable research in other areas of the country indicates this is the best way to address people’s concerns.
“So in the first instance we will always offer the public advice regarding where they should be feeding the ducks ahead of issuing any form of fine.
“The signs down by the riverside indicate the maximum penalty for persistent and consistent failure to follow the rules and would be awarded by a court.”
Guy Belcher, a nature conservation officer at Cambridge City Council, said: “We don’t have any rules like this.
“We do have lots of ducks in areas like Jesus Green but we do not consider them to be an issue or health hazard. Mind you we do not have any Muscovy ducks.
“We encourage people to feed the ducks and birds in our open spaces and it’s generally a fun activity for families.”