Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Crackdown on dogs fouling playing field postponed

PLANS to force dog owners to keep their pets on leads at Watlington sports field have been put on hold following protest.

The parish council wants to clamp down on the problem of fouling on the pitches,  off Shirburn Road, which are used by children’s cricket and football teams.

But it has agreed to delay any enforcement action for five months during which time it will monitor the problem.

Council vice-chairman Ian Hill told a council meeting: “As usual, it’s not the majority, it’s the minority that cause the problem.”

Rae Young, who spoke on behalf of the about eight residents at the meeting, said they were all responsible dog owners.

He said he picked up dog mess as he went around the field but had also found broken bottles and used barbecues.

Mr Young said: “I played rugby for 25 years as a boy and as a man and there are just as many injuries from tin cans and broken bottles as from dog poo, if I’m honest.” A woman in the public gallery said that people driving through the town often stopped to allow their dogs to run around the recreation ground.

“It’s not a sports field, it’s a place for the public,” she said.

She added that the council had known about the problem for six years but had not discussed the issues with dog owners.

Mr Young suggested forming a group to work with the council, adding “To defer for three to six months for a period of consultation would be a good idea.”

The council leases the pitches from Beechwood Estates and is concerned about its liability.

Councillor Hill said: “The sports clubs are understandably not very keen on the idea of having to go round the field before every session to check to see if it’s clear.

“We have provided them with a device to clear it —  a poover — but it doesn’t necessarily make the job any easier and takes up a fair amount of time.

“I suspect that the majority of people are responsible. I’ve been going up to the sports field quite regularly and for the most part I’ve seen people who are very careful and keep a close eye on their dog.”

He said people had volunteered to monitor the area and this had a “reasonable chance” of stopping the problem.

Councillor Terry Jackson said: “We don’t want to ban dogs. The dog wardens idea would work for a while.

“I’m not sure how long it would last — my experience is they fizzle out eventually.”

“I’m sympathetic to the football and cricket clubs having to clear it up. It’s a big job for someone who’s not necessarily a dog owner.”

Councillor Tim Horton suggested providing more dog waste bins in more suitable positions.

He said that last year he and his wife had cleared the inner edge of the tree line in Shirburn Road and counted 35 bags of dog waste. Chairman Matt Reid said the council needed to find an alternative area of land where owners could let their dogs off the lead.

Councillor Keith Woolfson said: “Nobody wants to see the penalisation of the majority for the selfish acts of the few.

“It’s also the only place to walk dogs locally.”

Councillor Nick Hancock said: “At the end of the day we have to put the kids’ health before the amenity for the dogs.”

Councillor Rob Smith said that in the winter months owners couldn’t see where their dogs went.

The council agreed to postpone the “dogs must be kept on leads” order until November and in the meantime will carrying out surveillance and work with owners.

Cllr Hill said: “By putting a deadline on it it focuses the mind.

“I’m fully supportive of involving a group of people to work with us on what wouldn’t or would work but I think it’s quite key we have this backstop in place.”

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