Sunday, 15 December 2019

Crackdown on dog mess in playing field scrapped

PLANS to force dog owners to keep their pets on leads at Watlington sports field have been scrapped.

The parish council has decided not to introduce a clampdown after hearing how the problem of dog mess left on the pitches had improved over the last few months.

Instead, it plans to install more dog waste bins.

The pitches, off Shirburn Road, are used by children’s cricket and football teams.

The council, which leases the land from Beechwood Estates, had planned to ban dogs not on leads from the area because it didn’t want to put children’s health at risk and was concerned about its liability.

However, in July it postponed a final decision for five months following protests by residents.

The council said it would use that time to monitor the problem and work with a group of dog owners. The owners held meetings to identify what they could do to spread the word and agreed that they needed to act in unison.

They have also carried out regular patrols of the area and cleared up any mess they found.

The group has asked for better signage, more bins and more waste bag dispensers in order to help maintain the improvements.

Last week, a council meetingheard that the action had worked.

Vice-chairman Ian Hill said: “In terms of the amount of mess on the playing fields, the cricket and football clubs both say there has been a huge improvement.

“The field is not only cleaner but more people are aware.”

Councillor Andrew McAuley said: “This whole situation shouldn’t be happening on or close to a sports pitch. The problem is not so much whether it’s dogs on a lead, it’s what the dogs do or what the owners do or don’t do.

“It’s fair enough having dogs off the lead but the onus is on the owners to clear up the mess. The dog owners group shouldn’t have to clear up after other owners.

“I can see the problem and it’s going to involve extra expense for the parish to police it and put in bins.”

Parish clerk Kristina Tynan said the problem dated back 40 years.

Councillor Keith Woolfson said: “It’s sad that we have to take action like this and that a group is having to pick up after others.

“It is a good solution in the short-term but I think it needs to be

Councillor Terry Jackson suggested revisiting the issue in a year’s time.

Rae Young, who spoke on behalf of the dog walkers, said there was probably no more than three or four dog walkers who didn’t pick up after their pets.

He said: “I played rugby for 25 years, so I fully understand the dangers and horrors of unregulated dog poo.

“We do have the Chilterns and the Ridgeway on our doorstep and we’re blessed with great dog walking in this area but in the mornings, half an hour before work, the sports field is the place a lot of us can use.

“A number of residents of Orchard Walk can only just get there to walk their dog.

“It’s not just a place to go and walk your dog, it’s a social place. It’s an excellent resource and we all need to work together to make sure it’s suitable for everybody.”

The council agreed to rexamine the issue next November.

• A one-day consultation on the issue held at the town hall recently produced 22 responses of which 15 said that dogs should not have to be kept on a lead.

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