Dog owners could be fined £1,000 if new rules around Hylands House are breached

An order which could see people fined up to £1,000 if they allow their dogs to run free in certain areas of Hylands Park is to be introduced following a vote at Chelmsford City Council

The council is set to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) formally imposing restrictions on dogs in about 15 per cent of Hylands Park in an attempt to protect other users of the park.

The order means dog owners can be fined for using areas where dogs are already not permitted – the fort play area, the fenced area for grazing cattle, the area immediately around Hylands House, the walled garden, Hylands House and the pavilion and courtyard.

It also restricts other areas where dogs will have to be on the lead after 9am – these include all car parks within Hylands Park, the access route from Widford Church, the lake and the area between the fort play area and the Hylands House car park.

There will also be a maximum of four dogs permitted to be walked by any one person at a time. Assistance dogs are exempt from any restrictions within this PSPO. Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements imposed by this PSPO could lead to a £1,000 fine.

But the plans have been met with significant opposition – of 231 consultation responses received from the public 37 per cent were in favour of the PSPO, while 60 per cent were against. The other 3 per cent expressed no view.

The proposals follow an increase in incidents of dangerously out-of-control dogs reported to Chelmsford City Council. Across the whole district there were 78 dog attacks ending July 1 2023 – up 36 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Recent incidents at Hylands include reports that a group of five large dogs off the lead approached a family opposite the adventure play area and one of the dogs jumped on a four-year-old child.

In another attack, a large dog tried to bite a park user on an early morning walk. The estate’s deer have been attacked by dogs off the lead at Hylands. In May one animal had to be put down after sustaining serious injuries from a dog attack.

The council’s existing five enforcement officers – who also cover flytipping will be on hand to patrol. But the council adds it will be mainly intelligence-led and target persistent offenders.

Councillor Rose Moore, cabinet member for a greener and safer Chelmsford said: “The proposed PSPO aims to help everyone enjoy this park, enabling those who don’t necessarily want dogs running up to them to have a safe space. Simultaneously it provides many hundreds of acres where dogs can be off the lead.”

Proactive patrols will take place after an eight-week cooling off period but the council says the majority of interventions will come from “local intelligence”.

Councillor Moore added: “Although fines can be issues if someone fails to comply without a reasonable excuse this is not about money. Rather, it is designed to change behaviour which will make the estate safer for everyone.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter