'It's a health risk' - Crowds of ducks causing town centre poo problems

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Boode

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Businesses and residents have expressed their concerns over duck poo which could be "dangerous" in the centre of a market town.

Duck poo all over the floor outside The Greyhound Pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Boo

Duck poo all over the floor outside The Greyhound Pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Over the last year, multiple business owners and residents have raised concerns over duck mess in Swaffham's town centre, car park and the churchyard.

Johnny George, who has managed the Greyhound Pub for three years, has been spending £200 per week hiring a professional cleaner to remove the mess from the front of his premises.

Johnny George, manager of The Greyhound pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden

Johnny George, manager of The Greyhound pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

He said: "If you look at the mess, how am I supposed to expect people to want to come into my pub when there's duck mess around the chairs and all around the front of my building?

"I love the ducks, it is heartwarming to see children feeding them, but when they're being fed in the town centre, it's an environmental health risk with all the food businesses around."

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Boode

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

After the most recent concerns, sent to Swaffham Town Council (STC) by Michael Harris, who has been living in the town for 64 years, council members discussed what could be done about the issue on Wednesday, December 9.

At the meeting, councillors voted to speak to Breckland Council about putting up signs at Pit Lane, Market Cross and the Church asking people not to feed the ducks when they are on land.

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Boode

Ducks gathering outside St Peter & St Paul's church in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

The idea was initially mentioned at a council meeting that took place on February 6 after Andrew Martin, the owner of Mother Hubbard's sent an email to STC stating his concerns about the birds.

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At the meeting, councillors discussed how East Cambridgeshire District Council erected a sign on Ely's Riverside saying ducks and geese must only be fed on the water, not on the land. If people ignored this they could be prosecuted up to £2,500 for littering.

Lindsay Beech, Swaffham Town Councillor. Picture: Danielle Booden

Lindsay Beech, Swaffham Town Councillor. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Councillor for STC, Lindsay Beech, said: "I want the town, shops and market to be successful and I want to encourage people to come back and shop but it's hard to do that when ducks are messing right next to food stalls at the market.

Duck poo all over the floor outside The Greyhound Pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Boo

Duck poo all over the floor outside The Greyhound Pub in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

"Hopefully these signs will educate people and let them know feeding ducks on land is not right and if environmental health gets involved they could get culled."

Mr George said he feels STC's move to enquire about putting up signs is a step in the right direction.

He said: "I think it would be great if signs were put up. Hopefully, it will educate people to feed them on water and not land."

But Dawn Butters, 56, who feeds ducks in the churchyard every day said signs would not deter her.

Dawn Buffers, 56 from Swaffham, feeding the ducks to try and help keep them out of the town centre.

Dawn Buffers, 56 from Swaffham, feeding the ducks to try and help keep them out of the town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

She said: "I used to feed the ducks with my mother before she died, now I come and feed them every day. I love the ducks."

Dawn Buffers, 56 from Swaffham, feeding the ducks to try and help keep them out of the town centre.

Dawn Buffers, 56 from Swaffham, feeding the ducks to try and help keep them out of the town centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Another resident, Esther Wildsmith, 55, said: "They are wild animals and this is a public space, we should be allowed to feed them wherever we want."

Swaffham Town Council will now speak to Breckland Council about erecting signs in the town.

What has been done in the past?

The problem of ducks first became apparent in 2013, and the town council encouraged market traders to stop feeding the birds in a bid to clean its streets in 2015.

In 2016 the council hired a company to remove 44 of the ducks and relocate them 12 miles away from the town.

As part of the programme, the duck's wings were clipped so they "couldn't fly back".

But due to their wings growing back and the animals having a good memory, the ducks returned in 2017 and have been there ever since.

At the time, Pact Animal Sanctuary founder, Chris Rockingham believed the relocation was "a bit over the top".

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