Well-behaved dogs ‘punished for a few idiots’ as Hylands ban set to start

An order banning dogs from parts of Chelmsford’s largest park is set to be introduced despite a large majority of respondents being against it.

Chelmsford City Council is set to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) restricting areas of Hylands Park where dogs are allowed in an attempt to stamp out canine attacks.

It is also set to include where dogs are allowed off the lead, and restricting the number of dogs that can be walked by an individual. 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 making of the PSPO. Another 3 per cent expressed no view.

The replies, all anonymised by the council, were made to the consultation which ran from July 13 to August 11. One against said: “It’s very restricting for dog walkers, you have allocated a massive area where dogs won’t be able to run free off the lead. This is very unfair to the majority of safe dogs and responsible dog owners who use the park daily.”

Another said: “Absolute ridiculous proposal, dogs walking should be allowed in all areas and not required on the lead. We pay so much council tax that we shouldn’t have any restrictions over places open to the public.”

Another added: “I strongly object to a council enforcing restrictions on well behaved dogs in need of vigorous exercise seemingly being punished for the few. We have to stop living in fear and motivate people to train their pets to be safe which is surely a better solution. This has the potential to only to deploy attacks to other areas. What happens when an attack is reported in an area where dogs are allowed off the lead? Is this the beginning of the park being completely dogs – on – leads.”

Another added: “Are you seriously telling me I can’t walk my little westie up the field from the adventure playground to the pleasure gardens on a wet day in Winter when the only people there are dog walkers?

“Dogs only sweat by panting and through their paws. On hot days they need access to water and will find it. You’ll end up having to deal with dogs with heat stroke if they are banned from the lake. People never obey rules, so please how can you police this? All the reasonable and well behaved dogs and owners punished again for a few idiots.”

But there has been a large number agreeing. One respondent said: “I think it’s a great idea. We have stopped coming to Hylands Park, not because of the parking charges but because of the number of dogs which are not under control, the ‘owners’ seem to think they don’t need to have any responsibility for their dogs actions once they are off lead. It would be lovely to have some space that dogs are kept out of, or at least need to be on leads, so we can also enjoy the space without being approached by dogs all the time. In fact, I would like to see more than 15 per cent of the park as dog free zones.”

The council has said the effect of this PSPO, if made, will be to prohibit walking a dog off the lead in four areas, walking a dog off the lead after 9am each day in one large area around Hylands House and any dog from being within six areas at any time.

There will also be a maximum of four dogs permitted being walked by any one person at a time. Assistance dogs are exempt from any restrictions within this PSPO.

The PSPO is set to be agreed at Chelmsford cabinet on September 12. The council added: “There have been numerous complaints about dogs being dangerously out of control, and numerous incidents of dog-on-dog attacks, normally where one dog is off the lead.

“Whilst the incidents are not location specific Hylands Park presents a significant risk due to the number of visitors and mix of families and dog walkers.

“The proposed Public Spaces Protection Order enables everybody to enjoy the park in the manner they wish to. Introducing areas where dogs must be on the lead enables other park users not to be at risk from out of control dogs and providing areas where dogs can be off the lead ensures no group is discriminated against.

“Limiting the number of dogs an individual can walk at one time will assist in managing issues caused by professional dog walkers when they are walking more dogs than they can control and manage.

“There was an excellent response to the consultation with 231 responses. The consultation responses covered a range of views both for and against the PSPO. It is important to note that the PSPO is not preventing dogs being walked, owners can either walk their dogs on the lead or choose to use the 85 per cent of the park that will have no restrictions in place.

“Whilst there are currently no plans to introduce similar restrictions in other parks or public areas this will be kept under review.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter