A controversial application by BAE Systems to cull 552 pairs of seagulls has been blocked my the Court of Appeal.
The killing of the lesser black-backed gulls was sanctioned by former environment secretary, Owen Paterson, at the request of the aerospace company to lower the risk of bird strike to aircraft.
But three appeal judges have unanimously overturned the High Court and ruled Mr Paterson’s decision, made in May 2013, was “fatally flawed” and quashed it.
BAE Systems requested the culls to reduce the risk of bird strike to aircraft operating at the company’s Warton aerodrome in the Ribble Estuary.
And the High Court last year dismissed claims by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds RSPB that the cull was unlawful and would set a dangerous precedent.
The RSPB said it feared killing the birds would lead to bird culls elsewhere.
The charity said it accepted the risk to aircraft but questioned the legality of the Government sanctioning the killing of birds without acknowledging the damaging impact of removing “almost a fifth of the breeding population of a species on a protected site”.
Lord Justice Sullivlan said the birds affected nested in an extensive area of sand and mud flats and saltmarsh on the south bank of the Ribble which is classified as a special protection area.