Changes to Bideford’s New Year firework display have been praised for protecting roosting starlings.

The five-minute display after midnight on New Year's Day saw quieter fireworks set off further away from the bridge to reduce the impact on birds near Bideford Long Bridge.

The changes came after a petition from Bideford resident Rob Durrant, who claimed last year's display of fireworks set off from the wharves in East-the-Water were 'cruel and utterly unacceptable' and led to birds being killed.

The petition has had more than 7,800 signatures, and has been backed by wildlife presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan and RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff.

Mr Durrant praised Bideford Town Council and the organisers Out of This World Events for the changes, which he said was a 'much-needed environmental success story'.

Celebrations in Bideford for New Year's Eve 2019-20. Picture: Graham HobbsCelebrations in Bideford for New Year's Eve 2019-20. Picture: Graham Hobbs

"After many years of distress and carnage to starlings roosting under the bridge, action by Bideford Town Council has ended the birds' misery," said Mr Durrant.

"Chris Packham has praised the council on Twitter for taking action in response to the campaign backed by him and other eco-celebrities to change the fireworks arrangements and protect the starlings roosting under Bideford bridge.

"This year no starlings were harmed by the fireworks displays, which were quieter, further from the bridge, and of shorter duration.

"These actions by the organisers in response to the council's wishes achieved the aims that campaigners have been fighting for, which is a much-needed environmental success story.

"The murmuration at Bideford bridge has been massively depleted; but we hope that this change for the better will see the traditional starling displays rebuilding over the Torridge river once more."

The changes were met with praise from Mr Packham, who tweeted: "Big hats off to Robert who campaigned for change and achieved it! And to [Bideford Town Council] who saw sense and made a difference! So refreshing and a good start to 2020 for starlings at least!"

Former Green Party leader Baroness Natalie Bennett was another supporter. She praised the result as showing the change which can be achieved from campaigning.