A television star and the president of the RSPB are among more than 3,500 people who have signed a petition demanding the end of ‘cruel’ fireworks displays in Bideford.

The petition, started by Bideford resident Rob Durrant, claims the diplays are ‘cruel and utterly unacceptable’ for the starling roost nesting under the bridge.

Mr Durrant’s petition has had more than 3,500 signatures, including RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff and television presenter Michaela Strachan.

It is addressed to Torridge District Council and Bideford Town Council, who grant permits for the displays to take place, but do not themselves organise the fireworks displays.

Mr Durrant said: “For many years, twice every year, hundreds of starlings have been sent flying out in blind terror in the middle of the night from their traditional roost under Bideford Long Bridge.

“The sudden huge explosions send them hurtling into the river water where they drown, or smashing into buildings to be killed or injured, or flying blindly into ‘revellers’, including drunken people who kick them and stamp on them.”

Mr Durrant, who lives around a mile from the bridge, said he was woken by ‘what sounded like the Battle of the Somme’ on New Year’s Eve.

He said usually his garden is full of starlings but there were barely any there the next day and it took some time for the numbers to build up again.

“It is now essential for Torridge District Council and Bideford Town Council to accept responsibility for allowing this cruelty which contaminates Bideford,” he added.

“They must refuse to permit any further firework events to take place anywhere near Bideford Bridge, and put an end to the barbarous carnage of the starlings.”

Becky Edwards, of New year’s Eve organisers Out of the World Events, said the fireworks were set off from the car park near Wooda Surgery, further from the bridge than in previous years.

She said they attempted to move the fireworks to the other side of the river on previous years, but had issues with people trying to climb over the fence.

“Of course we’re open to moving the fireworks as we don’t want to upset the birds any more than anyone else does,” she said.

“Our team checked around after the celebrations and they didn’t find any dead birds anywhere as claimed by some.

“If anyone has any suggestions of where we could move the firworks to, we’re open to hear them.”

She said organisers would look to possibly move the fireworks to Bank End for this year’s celebrations.

View and sign the petition here.