A heartbroken pensioner says one of her ‘few pleasures’ in life has been taken away after a housing association banned her from feeding birds in a communal garden.
Frances Cheatham has spent the last four years providing food for the birds in the garden of the Chester & District Housing Trust (CDHT) rented building she shares with about 40 other residents in Leyfield Court, Lache, and says that watching them tucking in every day has brought her untold amounts of joy.
The 71-year-old who lives alone in the sheltered housing block and has no children, has over the years spent her own money on numerous food and specialist hanging feeders for the large garden she shares with a number of other residents, and claims she is one of the only people to regularly use it.
But she was shocked last month to receive a letter from Chester District Housing Trust (CDHT), ordering her to stop feeding the birds for fear of ‘spreading disease’, and highlighting potential ‘health hazards.’
She told The Chronicle: “I’ve got about 5 feeders on the go, I take good care of them, and spend lots of happy times feeding the birds so I couldn’t believe it when I got this letter telling me to stop doing it and inviting me to a meeting. It said Environmental Health and even the police would get involved in the matter. When I went to see them they told me that feeding birds can pass on disease, and endanger people’s health.
“But lots of people feed birds around this area. At the end of the day, I’m 71 and it brings me pleasure to feed the birds. It’s the only enjoyment I have in life. I spend my money feeding them and I feel like I’m being persecuted in a way but I’ll be standing my ground for now, although I’m already worrying about winter coming and the birds going hungry.”
Chris Collett, a spokesperson for the RSPB said he was surprised that regular good feeding practice should lead to the spread of disease. “Feeding birds gives millions of people enormous pleasure and provides birds with valuable food source which helps them through difficult times and winter months,” he told The Chronicle. “As long as people practice good hygiene with their feeders, there shouldn’t be a problem and feeding birds is a very positive thing to do.”
However, Christa Ripley, Sanctuary’s Head of Housing Operations North West, of which CDHT is part, said: “Following numerous complaints from neighbours about the state of the communal garden from feathers, droppings, dust and seeds, we have asked that Miss Cheatham refrain from feeding birds in this shared area. We fully appreciate that she enjoys her time feeding birds, but using the communal area to do so is causing a disruption to other residents, which we need to consider.”