London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of London 1938

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London, City of ]

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65
UNFIT DWELLINGS.
During the period under review 32 visits were made to seven unfit dwellings in the City.
The owners of these dwellings are willing to close the dwellings for the purpose of human
habitation on alternative accommodation being provided for the occupants. The unfit
dwellings provide accommodation for seven families, with a total number of occupants of 15.
PROVISION OF ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION.
The abatement of overcrowding and the closure of unfit dwellings in the City is dependent
upon the provision of suitable alternative accommodation for the occupants.
The question of re-housing all the overcrowded and insanitarily housed families in
a proposed block of flats in or near the City b6undary was investigated. A site sufficient
to meet the re-housing requirements of the City was found on the eastern boundary of the
City, but certain difficulties therewith prevented development. It was then decided to
utilize, as they become vacant, all City Corporation dwellings situated inside and outside
'the City. At the present time these dwellings are being offered to overcrowded and insanitarily-housed
families.
PIGEONS.
The Public Health Committee of the City Corporation have frequently urged upon me
the necessity for increasing the efforts which are made to combat the nuisance caused by
the congregation of pigeons in the City area, and have criticised the fewness of the birds
which have been caught by the agents appointed under the powers granted by the Public
Health (London) Act, 1936. Personally, I have felt that the number reported as caught
has not contributed materially towards a minimization of the nuisance, and I have come
to the conclusion that the problem is one which cannot be satisfactorily solved by the
existing arrangements. City activity in this matter dates so far back as 1903, when the
then Medical Officer of Health caused an investigation to be undertaken into the nuisance
which was caused by these birds, and after satisfying himself that they were a very real
nuisance, he gave thought as to what steps should be taken to combat the trouble. He
found that it was impossible for the Corporation to take action as ownership of the birds
could not be ascertained, and although they appeared, to belong to nobody in particular,
they might be protected by the Larceny Act of 1861, which imposes a penalty for unlawful
killing of any house dove or pigeon. Subsequently an Act of Parliament was passed in 1927,
which empowered the Corporation, among other Metropolitan Authorities, to reduce the
numbers, but in order to obtain its satisfactory progress through Parliament, undertakings
had to be given that ringed or homing pigeons should not be destroyed, but when caught,
returned to the Homing Union. To this course there could not be any objection, but a further
and very important condition was imposed, and that was that the birds should not bp shot
or killed in the public street, but should be caught and subsequently killed painlessly. These
conditions practically restricted the catching of these birds to two methods—i.e., either
hand catching or trapping. At first a certain amount of success attended the efforts of
the professional pigeon catcher, but, unfortunately, publicity resulted in interference by
well-intentioned but misguided persons, and such interference has now reached such a degree
of intensity that the professional finds very considerable difficulty in catching any
birds at all. In the hope of accelerating destruction, certain members of the Corporation
staff have been allotted to this duty, but here, again, opposition has rendered their efforts
of very little avail.
There are four factors of material importance in connection with this matter of reduction
of the pigeon population in the City. One is the nesting facilities provided by certain
buildings, such as the belfries of City churches, and this I have attempted to deal with by
an approach to the responsible parties, with the suggestion that pigeon proofing by the
introduction of wire netting be attempted; secondly, feeding and interference by visitors
and others; thirdly, the lack of uniformity and co-operative effort throughout not only
Metropolitan London, but Greater London; and, fourthly, the restriction imposed by the
promise given not to use shooting.
In regard to the first, as I have already said, an attempt has been made-by this Department
to impress upon the responsible persons the desirability of proofing, but this, unfortunately,
has not met with the ready acceptance which I had hoped, and as at the moment,
there is no power to demand these steps, no further action in this direction seems possible.


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