Stevenage Borough Council has defended its decision to install anti-pigeon spikes on trees in recently revamped town centre squares.

The council recently carried out a major overall of Forum Square and the Westgate shopping centre entrance with newly planted trees, paving, seating and performance spaces.

But some local and national media including the Sun carried reports criticising the council for installing spikes to keep the pigeons off the trees.

The council has hit back at the criticism, and issued a statement saying: “We are piloting some pigeon prevention methods across the town, along with a stop feeding the pigeons campaign, because they can cause mess and disease.

“This is a standard anti-pigeon measure used in towns and cities across the country. On shops, trees, churches, all sorts of places.

“They do not hurt pigeons, but deter them from roosting in a particular area.

“We aim to deter pigeons from roosting in the town centre, including this area where people sit outside to eat and drink on new benches and outside coffee shops.”

It added: “Pigeons can cause mess and transmit serious diseases including meningitis, E-coli, Salmonella and Listeria.

“These spikes were already in place on shop canopies in Stevenage and around the country, and have been for many years. We added these new ones after improving the square this summer with new benches, lighting and trees.”

But the town’s Conservative MP Stephen McPartland has hit back at the decision, saying: “It’s completely stupid.

“Trees are there for birds to use, but this is typical of the idiocy of Stevenage Borough Council. These trees have been there for years, they’ve never needed spikes before.”

In the advice it issues about living with pigeons, animal welfare charity the RSPCA mentions a number of methods of preventing them from landing including wire structures, netting and spikes.

On spikes, referred to by the RSPCA as ‘spines’, it says: “Anti-perching devices, such as spines, are considered to be one of the most humane ways of trying to minimise the problems these birds can cause. The spines are usually angled so that they are awkward to land on but will not impale the bird but some may also be designed to bend but be firm enough to provide an uncomfortable perching or roosting place for the bird. However, it is vital these are installed appropriately by trained professionals and inspected regularly.”

The RSPB gives advice on its website including: “Ledges can be protected by fitting specially designed spike strips or metal coil, or converting the ledge to a slope.”