So today I received a communication from DEFRA (the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in response to my petition calling on local councils to stop imposing fines on people feeding birds.
Although the response I received contains much information that we generally knew already, it is nevertheless encouraging to have in writing the following statement, which I quote directly from the communication:-
“It is not illegal for people to feed wild animals.”
(I have underlined the 'not'!)
That in itself should give confidence to those kind people who feed our native birds.
The statement is qualified however with the following:-
"However, local authorities have the right, under local government and public health legislation, to put in place local bye-laws preventing the feeding of specified animals on public land in their areas."
This might sound less encouraging but at least it appears to imply that feeding birds on private land is certainly outside of any council jurasdiction. This is interesting because there have been reports of fines being imposed on private householders who feed birds in their own gardens following complaints from intolerant neighbours. In these cases, any action taken by a local council (providing the property is not council owned) should definitely be disputed since feeding birds on one's own private property would appear to be entirely permitted.
Challenging a fine
According to the message I received from DEFRA, any complaint for a fine that is considered unfair should be taken initially to the local council: “Local authorities have complaints procedures and use of these should be the first step for anyone who feels dissatisfied with the way in which the authority has dealt with an issue.”
But another piece of good news is that, should the council fail to address the complaint, then it is not the end of the line: “they can ask for the matter to be investigated by the Local Government Ombudsman”.
I consider this response to our petition to be a result. Bringing the matter to the direct attention of the Government could only have happened with your support and help. And with so many signatures it is clear that this issue is important to very many people.
Thanks so much for your help with highlighting this problem.
We can confidently continue to feed urban wildlife, at the very least within the above guidelines, safe in the knowledge that should a local council or anybody else object then there are ways to challenge both the objection and any fine that is imposed.
Feeding birds on private land should present no problems based on the information I received from the Government today.
The Local Government Ombudsman can be contacted via http://www.lgo.org.uk/
Meanwhile please continue to share the petition far and wide! Petition can be found HERE
With sincere thanks,
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