Anger over ‘draconian’ move to ban dogs from 11 parks in Norfolk
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Council bosses are being urged to reconsider a 'draconian' move to ban or restrict dogs from 11 parks and public areas across north Norfolk.
Dog owners can be fined up to £1,000 for failing to adhere to the rules.
Dogs have been banned from parks and public areas in Fakenham, Cromer, Bacton, Northrepps and Happisburgh.
The bans have been in place since November, but many have been unaware as signs have only been put up in the last few days.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) consulted local councils on new dog bans, or Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), in February 2017. Councils made recommendations for dog restrictions based on complaints of dog fouling and danger to children, which were then implemented by the district council.
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Caroline Kisko, secretary of dog welfare organisation the Kennel Club, said: "Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, dog owners are required to provide for the welfare needs of their pet. This includes enabling them to have the necessary amount of exercise each day, something which is greatly affected by the amount of publicly accessible parks and other public places in their area that can be used without restrictions. We would ask local councils to consider whether 'in use' or seasonal restrictions would be more appropriate than an outright ban. Alternatively, in the case of play areas and playgrounds, where an exclusion may be necessary, alternative provisions should be made for dog walkers there."
Pet owners have also argued the orders do nothing to address problems posed by wild animals and littering, which they claim is a greater nuisance than dog fouling.
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Fakenham town councillor George Acheson said: "The district council have been a bit more draconian that we expected. We we were in favour of keeping dogs on leads in most areas.
"The dog fouling in some play areas was quite sordid and certainly a problem, so we made recommendations, and made sure there were still places to walk dogs like at Aldiss Park. At the end of the day, the decisions were made by the district council."
Scientific officer for NNDC James Ashby said: "We tried our best to consult everyone on the proposed changes, but we cannot be held responsible for people who did not make their views known.
"We consider all aspects of the bans, and review them every three years."
Where the bans and restrictions are in place?
In Fakenham, six parks have dog restrictions, including Queen's Road Recreation Ground, Whitelands play area and the parish churchyard. Outright bans are in place in play areas on Trap Lane and Hayes Lane.
The picnic area by the River Wensum on Gogg's Mill Road requires dogs to be on leads, as does The Meadow park in Cromer, while dogs are totally banned from the play area there and from all of Fearns Park. Northrepps football field, Happisburgh playing field and Bacton memorial ground will also receive new signs for their banned areas. The original signs used complex maps of the ban areas, which the district council felt were unclear.
The orders replace older powers, meaning violating them is considered an anti-social behaviour offence and can be fined up to £1,000.
What do people think?
Reporter Matthew Farmer went out into Fakenham to see what people think about the dog bans.
Charlotte Hubbard, 30, played with her child in Fakenham's Queens Road play area. She said: "Having a child and a dog, the bans make it difficult to incorporate both into the day. I understand keeping dogs out of gated play areas, but keeping them from open spaces doesn't make much sense to me. People do it anyway because no one knows about the bans."
Joesph Wade, 30, came down the road to walk his three dogs. He said: "It's not necessary, I don't see what harm dogs can do if you keep them away from people. Obviously there are some irresponsible owners who leave poo, but it's quite disappointing the bans are pretty much everywhere."
Martin Howe, 42, gave his King Charles Spaniel some water at Gogg's Mill picnic area. He said: "We used to have a husky who wouldn't hurt the chickens, but would agitate them. It depends on the dog's temperament.
"I think they should make bigger dogs stay on leads, because some people find them frightening."