FEARS that pigeons could be damaging Brentwood's 13th-century chapel ruins have led to a search across the continent for help – but this picture suggests the answer could lie a little closer to the nest.
Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, is perhaps better known for Casanova, canals and the cursed palace of Ca'Dario than it is for its success in protecting buildings from corrosive pigeon droppings.
But last week Brentwood Borough Council wrote to its Venetian counterpart to ask how best to protect the ruins of the Chapel of St Thomas à Becket of Canterbury which it fears is being worn away.
But this photo, above, from last Thursday morning, covertly captured by a resident who did not wish to be named, suggests the answer to the problem lies a little closer to home.
"She's got to be stopped," said the man who says he has seen the woman feeding birds most mornings for the past year.
"I caught her this morning (Thursday), she had a big bag of peanuts and a loaf of bread and the whole square was full of pigeons.
"She knows she shouldn't be doing it as she does it craftily, taking food from her trolley as she's pretending to get something out her bag.
"A hundred of them come down. They know she's coming every morning and they wait for her, then as soon as they're fed they're off."
The man insists the council needs to install signs to tell people not to feed the birds near the historical site. Currently there are none.
The Gazette went to speak with the pictured woman the next day but she did not appear near the High Street ruins during her regular morning slot.
Another woman who did turn up is self-confessed bird lover Jean Matthews, of Weald Road, who says her father kept pigeons as a hobby and that she would sooner see unwanted food be given to the birds than thrown away.
"People call them scavengers," she protested, "but I can remember during the war they used to send them all over to get messages to different places – they're part of our history.
"What would it look like without them? Some of these birds are beautiful. It's surprising how many people come and say, 'Look at those lovely pigeons'. I know people from Romford and they always say that we've got such healthy-looking pigeons.
"Besides, it looks like quite a solid building to me, they could do something about the grass growing on it if they wanted to protect it."
While the council said it could not confirm what action will be taken, Councillor Keith Parker, responsible for Environment, said: "We've been worried for some time about the effect pigeons are having on our old medieval church ruins.
"What seems to be happening is that the pigeons congregate on or around the old medieval church wall after being fed near the town centre.
"When we heard that Venice had successfully got rid of their problem and saved their historic buildings, we thought that we could learn a thing or two from them.
"We don't necessarily want to shoot the pigeons or fine people – but rather discourage people to feed them through education. I'd love to set up a Skype call to discuss it with the council in Venice."