Public firework displays in Bideford will no longer be set off by the riverside in order to protect roosting birds.

Torridge District Council's community and resources committee voted to prohibit firework displays from the council's land at the East-the-Water wharves when it met on Monday morning (June 10) to protect starlings roosting under the bridge.

Pollyfield, Torridge Bridge and a river barge were noted as possible alternative locations for future firework displays.

The decision comes after a petition, now signed by more than 7,150 people, calling for an end to the 'cruel' firework displays at New Year and Christmas light switch-ons, was brought before the district council in April.

The petition also called for the council to refuse licensing any inappropriate displays and reduce the noise level to cause minimum distress to wildlife, pets and pet owners.

Petitioner Rob Durrant said the council's decision on Monday did not go far enough.

"I cannot fault to the amount of time given to the discussion or the number of councillors who got involved; but to spend all that time and not to have got beyond the first point of the petition meant that the matter did not get advanced as far as we had hoped," said Mr Durrant.

"If more of the councillors had grasped the point that the site of any future display must go hand in hand with a reduction in noise level, they would have made much more useful progress.

"So we've won one skirmish, but the battle isn't over yet. If the noise isn't reduced, then the starlings may be less alarmed because the fireworks won't be quite so close; but the town's pets could still suffer from grossly unacceptable noise levels, and that must also be addressed."

A test display of 'silent' fireworks at Westward Ho! has already taken place, although feedback from councillors suggested they were a 'damp squib' compared to the usual display.

Councillor Doug Bushby said losing the fireworks altogether was not an option.

"Fireworks near the old bridge are no longer acceptable. No one wants to see birds disturbed, but we have to understand the situation that there are lots and lots of people who want to watch fireworks. If we can compromise and find an alternative site, that may help the situation.

"If we lose the fireworks altogether we will lose significantly when it comes to events such as new year's eve"

The petition attracted worldwide attention, with signatories including Chris Packham, RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff and television presenter Michaela Strachan, although the council was told only 379 of those who signed the petition lived in Torridge.

Bideford Town Council, which pays for the new year's eve event, will discuss the matter on Thursday (June 13).

Councillor Ken James, TDC's lead member for the environment, said: "Hopefully a way forward can be found that allows Bideford to remain a focal point for festivities with the possibility of the inclusion of fireworks but in a manner that also safeguards the local wildlife and the adverse effects on domestic pets and those people that might be disturbed by such noise."