BAFFLED local officials are struggling to stop pigeons from swamping Conway Square.
Ards and North Down Council barred people from feeding the feathered friends in the Newtownards landmark, hoping that it would encourage pigeons to flock away somewhere else.

But they’ve no way of enforcing that ban without creating a new by-law – and even then, local authority staff would have to catch someone in the act of feeding a pigeon, before hauling them before the courts for punishment.

According to a senior official, that means a by- law’s ‘usefulness is highly questionable’.
And in any case, new council by-laws have to be rubber-stamped by Stormont, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.

That’s according to council Environment Director David Lindsay, who last week told a council meeting that attempts to stop the pigeons have yet to come home to roost.
The main open space in Newtownards, Conway

Square is home to cafes and seating for locals and visitors alike to take the weight off their feet while enjoying al fresco coffee and food.
But over the last couple of years the area has become infested with increasingly large flocks of pigeons, which it’s widely believed have been attracted to the area in growing numbers by humans feeding them scraps.
So many are there so often that the birds are now becoming a nuisance.
In September 2022, alderman Stephen McIlveen asked the council to find a way of humanely controlling the pesky pigeons – but well over a year later, very little has been done.
Council officials have put up warning signs instructing people not to feed the birds, but according to Mr McIlveen they haven’t made much difference.
“I’m still getting complaints,” he said at a council meeting last week. “The situation hasn’t got any better, people are still feeding the pigeons there. “Signage wasn’t the only thing we were looking at, there was also some way of humanely deterring them.
“There was also the issue of a by-law so that offenders might be dealt with.”
David Lindsay replied that by-laws are ‘something that were introduced quite a long time ago’ and aren’t always useful, not least as councils can’t issue on- the-spot fines for breaches and instead have to summon offenders to court. “The council will probably want to consider very carefully the types of misdemeanours and offences it wants to specify in any new by- law, and even in reviewing any by-laws that have come in the last 40 years or so,” he said.

“We could bring back a report rehearsing the arguments for or against making a new by-law, but we are aware from other things that need to go through Stormont that there’s just nothing happening there. The department has told us that there will be no progress until there is a functioning [Executive].”

Mr McIlveen argued that’s ‘no excuse’ for failing to prepare in advance, stating that local government will be back at some point, whether the Assembly or direct rule from Westminster.
“The council made a decision on this over a year ago,” he said. “It’s important we carry out what work we can in anticipation of a decision-making body being in place.”

He added that the council should also check into ways of deterring the pigeons from coming to

Conway Square in addition to trying to block people from feeding them.
Council chief executive Stephen Reid said the local authority has culled pigeons in the area twice, but added: “The policy of the council currently is that we don’t do that, so it’s not on the books.”

The chief executive promised to bring back more information on the issue.