Woman could be stopped feeding swans

A WOMAN who has dedicated much of her life to supporting a flock of swans in a coastal Essex town has spoken out against councillors who have asked her to stop - even allegedly threatening her with an Asbo.

A WOMAN who has dedicated much of her life to supporting a flock of swans in a coastal Essex town has spoken out against councillors who have asked her to stop - even allegedly threatening her with an Asbo.

Alex Smith has been asked by parish councillors to end her twice-daily feeding sessions that see more than 100 swans head for the banks at Mistley, near Manningtree.

Councillors have said the problem stems from the amount of geese that have joined the flocks in recent years and the rats and bird droppings blighting the bank.

But Ms Smith, who is backed by many people in the town, claims that during recent council meetings she has felt “quite threatened” and was told by one councillor that she deserved an Asbo.


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“My issue is about not being understood. I'm not an expert - I'm just like anyone else. But I get a good measure of the swans. I know what they need to eat,” she said.

She said that the swans “clearly preferred” to eat natural food, but the reduction in weed in the area, and the ruling preventing maltings companies in the town dumping their effluent grain in the river left them with few natural sources of food.

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“An adult swan needs to eat 7lbs of weed a day. The RSPB has given its advice to the council and it is saying that feeding the swans should be reduced - stopped.”

Ms Smith said that during a recent meeting after one councillor “stood up and shouted” at her, calling her a “silly old woman”.

She added: “Then, as a group, the councillors did discuss that they would like to get an injunction to prevent me from feeding them, but I'm sure that's not a possibility. They would have to stop anybody who fed them - they couldn't just stop me alone.”

After being asked by the council, she has stopped feeding on the worn-out greensward and now scatters grain on the concrete base of the old swimming pool, which gets cleaned twice a day naturally by the tides.

The parish council is now looking at other ways to cut down the mess in the area and reduce the health risks it causes.

Council clerk Richard Ling said the situation had become “something of a Catch 22”.

He said: “There seems to be a tremendous amount of them on the greensward. What we have asked her to do is not feed them there.

“The council by no means wants to prosecute her - we just want to control it a bit. We're processing an application to the environment agency to build a small wall to stop the swans coming up.

“What it needs is a gradual reduction in feeding to let them find their own food.”

Among those supporting Ms Smith include Michael and Maureen Taylor, who run the nearby Mistley Place Park.

Mrs Taylor said: “Often we babysit them for Alex when they're poorly. I don't see the problem in it - the swans are part of Mistley heritage. People are more of a pest.”

Both Chelmsford borough and Tendring district councils have previously threatened residents with Asbos to stop them from feeding vast crowds of pigeons.

A spokeswoman for the RSPB said: “We definitely support feeding birds, but it does need to be done in sensible circumstances to avoid a public health problem.”

elliot.furniss@eadt.co.uk

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