(A guest post by Debbie Conibere, founder of Lyme Regis dog owners group).
The Lyme Regis’s Loving Dog Owners, Visitors & Friends Facebook Group is asking Dorset Council not to use a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) from 1 January 2021 to enforce a new blanket ban on exercising dogs off lead on the only safe and accessible beach in Lyme Regis.
Instead, the group requests that laws already in place regarding dog ownership are enforced appropriately. This will ensure loving dog owners are not unfairly penalised by only targeting those who break the law.
This new PSPO ban will stop the off-lead exercising of dogs on the only safe and accessible beach in Lyme Regis during the permitted off season Winter months. This raises major concerns for dog owner safety, accessibility and mental well-being, especially for those who are older or have mobility issues, when dog owners are signposted to less safe beaches in order to allow their dog to exercise off lead as no other suitable safe space has been provided.
Concerns about dog exercise welfare issues due to having no safe space to exercise dogs off leads, plus potential loss of income for local business and the 33 dog friendly venues and tourism sectors when dog owners take their dogs elsewhere, are just some of the reasons why our group is asking that instead of the new PSPO that the existing laws for dog ownership be enforced instead.
The Group will be presenting a 9,000 strong petition to the council, signed by both residents and visitors asking for restrictions not to be imposed using the PSPO. The Group is also appealing to the Lyme Regis Town Council, as landowners of the Sandy Beach at Lyme Regis, to allow dog owners to exercise their dogs off lead during the permitted Winter months should the Dorset Council decline their appeal.
The simple solution is to look at the example being set by North Devon Council, who are enforcing the current laws surrounding dog ownership, only targeting those who break the laws, instead of using the PSPO to blanket ban all dog owners – which discriminates against those loving dog owners who keep their dogs under control, pick up fouling and many of whom pick up litter and keep the beaches safe for all to use.
Councils need to be mindful that as well as the regular daily dog walkers who tend to be creatures of habit and walk at the same time each day, there are many families with children who are also dog owners, who enjoy family time outdoors together as a unit. Families, and those with mobility issues, will be signposted to tidal beaches that are under seawater for a lot of the day and less safe beaches with steep steps, slippery large rocks, broken glass and twisted metal from the Victorian tip, blue lias and rock falls, which can lead to expensive rescues when cut off by the tide and accidents on the unsuitable terrain.
This PSPO also gives a subliminal message that the welfare of responsible and loving dog owners is not important enough to allow them off lead exercise on the only safe accessible beach in Lyme Regis. Leaving regular daily dog walker and families facing tidal beaches that are underwater at their usual dog walking time is unfair, discriminating and depressing.
The results for Lyme Regis Beach consultation was 49.2% against dogs on leads, versus 48.7% for dogs on leads. Instead of going with the majority results which included input from visitors, who bring much needed revenue and income into the town, these visitors responses were dismissed and a new result of dogs on leads during the winter months was given. The dog group feels that this blanket ban is highly unfair and questions why all responses were not taken into consideration, especially when Dorset Council wanted to harmonise restrictions across their beaches.
The Lyme Regis Town Council submitted a statement to the PSPO Scrutiny Committee requesting a full year ban of dogs on the only safe and accessible beach and stated that dog fouling to be one of the issues. In fact, there have been zero fines for dog fouling in 2020 and only three issued in 2019 for the whole of Dorset.
Regular visitor Marion Morris is disappointed with the restrictions saying:
“Once the on lead restrictions come into place I will no long be visiting Lyme Regis Sandy Beach with my 3yr and 13yr old grandchildren, and two friendly springer spaniels, due to the alternative beaches not being accessible for me due to having trouble walking on uneven ground and slippery rocks. This means the local shops and dog friendly cafes will lose my custom too”.
If you feel that the solution to the blanket ban PSPO is to enforce the laws already in existence, or would like to know how to help appeal to Dorset Council, then please visit our Facebook group or email Dorset Council (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your concerns.