A long-running campaign to have bird netting removed from Louth Town Hall gained pace on Saturday morning - with dozens of protesters taking to the streets to express their grievances.
Over 50 protesters handed out leaflets and chanted ‘End their suffering, take the netting down’ in the town centre, with the protest overall attracting mostly positive comments from passers-by.
As reported previously, pet shop owner Meg Johnson, 21, organised the protest due to her ongoing concerns about birds - including racing pigeons - becoming trapped in netting around the building.
Meg’s campaign began in August 2018, and an RSPCA inspector said the current netting is ‘not fit for purpose’ in March 2019 - but there has been very little progress since then.
Louth Town Hall’s chief executive, Andy Howlett, has said this is due to the costs involved in replacing the netting with an up-to-date solution that is fit for purpose.
According to a quote received by Mr Howlett, the work would cost around £28,000 to carry out - a sum that he said is ‘currently out of our capacity’ as a not-for-profit community company.
However, Meg believes she may have a solution that would ‘not cost the Town Hall a penny’.
Following the peaceful protest on Saturday, Meg told the Leader: “We marched from Potty About Pets down Mercer Row and ended up stood on the Fish Shambles because a wedding had started at the Town Hall when we got there, and we didn’t want to spook the horse.
“We chanted ‘end their suffering, take the netting down’ and handed out about 100 leaflets containing information about pigeons with quirky facts and about our war heroes.
“We had a lot of people stop and talk to us about how awful the netting was. We only had a couple of negative comments, but 95 per cent of comments were really supportive!”
However, Meg expressed her annoyance after receiving a letter from Mr Howlett prior to the protest, which warned that she should be personally liable for any disruption or damage that may have occurred during the protest.
Meg disputes that she could be held responsible for another person’s actions, and said that a police representative has told her that this would not be the case.
Mr Howlett told the Leader that this letter was not intended as a threat, but simply to warn Meg about her responsibilities as the organiser of the protest.
Mr Howlett said: “The letter was sent following discussions with our insurers, legal advisors and the police to ensure that the organiser of the protest understood that there was a responsibility and accountability to ensure that the protest remained lawful, did not affect the registrars in the pursuit if their duties, and did not affect the rights of hirers or those using the registration service.
“It also points out that we would take action to recover any financial liability we would have or any claim against the Town Hall or it’s tenants brought by people hiring or using the Town Hall as a result of the protest.
“It was sent because there had been a previous claim that Police permission had been given to access the front of the Town Hall building - something which I have been told by the Police would not have happened - and there had been various posts on social media over the last few weeks implying that some protesters were planning to access the inside of the building as part of the protest,or access the front of the building to take down the nets - something that is a dangerous, specialist task and that there is no permission to do.”
Mr Howlett added: [The letter] points out that, whilst everyone has a right to peaceful protest, there are consequences to actions that break the law.
“It would always be the organisers of any activity from which originated trespass, criminal damage or breach of lawful rights, to whom liability would first be focused in event of any such problems under their responsibility to ensure that the protest they organised stayed lawful. We are pleased to see that the protest went without problems.”
This week, Meg is planning to propose a solution to the bird netting problem, that she says would ‘not cost the Town Hall a penny’.
Meg has spoken to a traffic management company and a pest control company - whose services she is willing to fund herself in order to find a solution to the netting issue.
Meg added: “It won’t cost (the Town Hall) a penny! But I’m more than willing to do it for the pigeons so no more have to suffer up there.”