PEOPLE living close to the Hopton Industrial Estate in Devizes have been plagued by an increasing number of seagulls this summer and now the reason has been revealed.

Devizes Town Council was stopped in March from carrying out its gull deterrent programme involving Harris hawks after all licences for the control and culling of birds were withdrawn by Natural England after a campaign by TV wildlife expert Chris Packham.

It has meant the gulls have come back with a vengeance to the dismay of people living nearby.

But this week town clerk Simon Fisher said the hawks could soon be back in the skies after it received notification that the licence had been put back in place.

He said: "We have just been told we can carry on but we have to now try and get a contractor to do the work. We don't know exactly how long that will take."

Town councillor Andy Geddes, who is leader of the majority Guardians group, said: "The gull deterrent programme had to be suspended temporarily. All native birds are protected species under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and deterrent programmes such as we have operated at Hopton can only be carried out under the terms of licences issued by Natural England.

"There has recently been some national controversy about the control and culling of native bird species which has apparently been generated by lobbying from the TV nature presenter Chris Packham.

"As a result, Natural England withdrew all the existing licences for bird control operations, including that held by our contractor who has had to cease operation."

The increase in gulls is a nightmare for people living in Hillier Road, Devizes. Graham and Karen Brown say the find their cars completely covered in bird poo every morning and they are unable to use their courtyard garden for fear of being spattered. Mrs Brown said: "We can't sit outside at all."

Their neighbour Helen Whitworth said: "It is terrible. My windows are constantly covered in mess."

The gull deterrent programme was introduced in 2015 and involved patrols by hawks to scare away the gulls and the removal of eggs. It has been carried out each year since between April and August.