Who’s more valuable to Lyme – kids or dogs?

THERE is a popular misconception that being a councillor makes you more clever than other people.

I don’t know where this belief stems from, I suppose that it dates back centuries to the days when only local worthies of inherited wealth served as councillors and that we transposed their affluence to mean that they were wise.

Or else this assumed cleverness comes from a councillor’s apparent popularity; they were elected, they won the people’s vote, therefore they must be a cut above, like celebrities. But two words contradict the logic of the better-because-popular argument: The Kardashians.

Or maybe this perceived intelligence comes from the old adage that two heads are better than one and therefore 14 heads, in the case of Lyme Regis Town Council, or 42 heads, in the case of West Dorset District Council, must add up to being very astute.
But from where I’m looking at Lyme’s new catastrophe-in-the-making, the 42 heads of the district council add up to being less astute than my cat’s arse.

In September last year, the district council overthrew the more-learned objections of the town council and decided to allow dogs to run free, off the lead, on Lyme’s Front Beach. One of the principal reasons for this, the district council’s officers told the members, was to encourage tourism because increasing numbers of people want to take their dogs on holiday with them.

In a desperate bid to encourage tourism which is the lifeblood of West Dorset, the councillors agreed to allow dogs to run wild on the Front Beach from October 1st to April 30th, essentially out of the traditional season.

Councillor Alan Thacker, the district council’s Community Safety & Access Portfolio Holder, told his colleagues: “We have taken a common-sense approach which sees dogs largely welcomed in many areas but also prohibited from areas such as children’s playgrounds and some beaches in summertime.”

Why are dogs prohibited in summertime and from playgrounds? Because, as every parent knows, dogs running wild around little children does not work, often they frighten the children.

Utilising it apparently-massive pool of common-sense, the councillors decided, rightly, not to allow dogs on the beach when the beach might be full of kiddies building sandcastles, i.e. in the summer.

However, it appears that the district councillors’ vast wealth of higher intelligence does not stretch to them consulting a calendar, nor conducting a quick web search.

Because had these 42 Einsteins done such, they would have discovered that Easter, traditionally a time for many tourists coming to Lyme, falls on April 1st this year and a web search of last year’s weather would have revealed that on April 9th 2017 the temperature in town reached 68F/20C – therefore in effect qualifying as Cllr Thacker’s “summertime”.

If the weather in Lyme this April matches that of the same period last year, the beach will be packed with families and children making sandcastles, you dog-favouring buffoons.

There are two main issues with mixing dogs off the lead and little children. The first is the fear of disease, which was evidenced last month when a mother complained on Facebook that a dog running free on the Front Beach had scampered up to her daughter and urinated over the toddler’s back.

The second is the law regarding dangerous dogs. This is not as straightforward as the district council intelligentsia may have assumed.

According to the law, for which you can be sent down for six months for breaking, “It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, such as in a public place.”

Ah, I hear the Brains of Britain over at Dorchester argue, but we’re not permitting dogs to be dangerously out of control.
But there’s more. The law also states: “Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it injures someone or [and this is the bit the district council should heed] if it makes someone worried that it might injure them”.

Surely it is not beyond even the gigantic mental capacity of the district council to work out that, given a warm Easter and the Front Beach being packed with families, a little child confronted by a large, freely-running dog may worry that it might injure them? Usually, the child’s screams of terrified hysterics give that away.

So how does putting the children of visitors in fear of packs of dogs bolster tourism in Lyme Regis? Dogs on the beach are more likely to deter families, rather than attract them.

And here’s another thing that the huge intellects of the district council appear to have over-looked, there are many, many more visitors with children who come to Lyme so that their kids can play safely on the Front Beach than there are visitors who come to Lyme solely because their dogs can run on that beach. The council’s idiot decision risks offending the majority for the interests of the minority, what sort of sound tourism sense is that?

With councils everywhere slashing the tourism budget because of Government funding cuts and with Lyme and West Dorset being almost-entirely dependant upon the visitor’s pound, we need much more intelligent thinking if our essential tourism economy is to survive.
We need experts, publicity experts, marketing experts, experienced, highly-trained professionals, not a bunch of inexperienced, un-taught amateurs who think they are experts just because they are on a council.

I fear for the future of Lyme’s crucial tourism economy if there is much more of this dilettante thinking by dabblers who have no idea of how to do it right.

But if they want the job done properly, they’ve got my number.

Woodmead Halls
About Geoff Baker 8 Articles
Born and educated in Lyme Regis, Geoff Baker trained as a journalist at the Express & Echo in Exeter and graduated to Fleet Street – via the Sidmouth Herald and the Birmingham Post – where he became chief of the entertainment desk at the Daily Star. He quickly gained a reputation for breaking exclusive showbiz stories and was often a guest on national TV. After setting up an agency handling news for Fleet Street, Geoff worked as Paul McCartney’s PR guru for 15 years, accompanying the former Beatle on his worldwide tours. Geoff returned to his home for a less hectic lifestyle to write a much-awaited novel

6 Comments

  1. I do understand the points you make and the timings may not be ideal but this article does really make this feel very us and them. Many a child and family enjoy the company of a family dog. I myself would not walk my dog on the beach if there were young children or people eating picnics etc. But i feel a happy medium could be found, as I say, many families enjoy spending time with their dog, not all children are petrified of dogs, as I feel you have alluded to in this article.

  2. This does read like a very black and white view. Children and dogs are both important to Lyme, so I do hope no-one takes you up on your offer to help with policy setting. I also hope you’ll visit the friendly beach at Charmouth some afternoons, where children and dogs play together on the beach and the fact that both are allowed when it’s not too crowded brings a much broader population of beach visitors. Although I walk there everyday, I’ve not yet seen any incidents where dogs have scared children. I’m sure it must happen, and certainly for my wider family it’s a good opportunity to help kids know how to behave positively and confidently if they feel threatened. No cotton wool for us, but I’m happy to avoid Lyme beach and leave you in your cocoon if you succeed in making it 100% dog free.

    • Reference Nica 27th Jan
      I can find no reference in Geoff Baker’s article relating to a 100% dog ban on the beach,only during the summer months when young children are about. Why is this so unreasonable? Would you let your dog loose to play in a children’s playground ? It’s not just an issue of dogs jumping up at kids. We all know that not all dog owners are responsible about clearing up after their pet. Especially when they think know one is watching. By all means go to Charmouth, and have a nice day.

  3. I must say that I found your article to be very biased.

    You try to show how clever you are by insulting counsellors,
    using such reasoned arguments as comparing them to your cat’s arse – lovely!

    Your continued use of the words ‘dogs running wild’ is as misleading as the photo you chose to use. The dogs in the photo do not appear to be causing any problems and anyone seeing dogs playing knows that sometimes they hold onto each other.

    You also take no account of the many families with children and dogs who enjoy this beach over the winter. I have seen many happy kids running around on the sand with their dogs both letting off their energy. In fact during the winter months it is mostly people with dogs who use this beach. A lot of whom would not go into Lyme without it and they spend money in the shops while they are there. This helps the economy in the leaner winter months. I can not be the only one who pops in for a coffee or sausage roll on a freezing day after walking the dog.

    I read with some amusement your remark regarding counsellors and the Kardashians when I noticed your pervious job as entertainment editor for the Daily Star. This job presumably included reporting on and promoting reality tv stars.

    A balanced debate may well be required if Easter proves to be the disaster that you predict. Maybe such measures as no dogs over the Easter school holidays could be proposed and no one I have met has a problem with no dogs on that beach in the summer. To demonise the dog walkers is one sided and in my opinion wrong. Like it or not one of the main reasons for people to holiday in Britain instead of going somewhere with guaranteed sun is so that they can take their dogs. Indeed in the summer many families have their dog on a lead sitting on the wall be the beach as their children play.

    Presumably you do mean to place yourself (with your background in spin) as one of the experts who should decide what is best for the rest of us. Such arrogance astounds me.

  4. My name is Charlie Chalk, I live in Lyme Regis and am quite well known around town. I am a dog that regularly uses Front Beach, partly for my own enjoyment but also as a way of ensuring that my owners take some exercise.
    Without going too much into the arguments for and against the use of this beach by dogs,I would like to set the record straight on another matter. It concerns the photograph at the head of the article. I am very perturbed by the number of people who think that I am the dog holding the tail of the white Staffie.Even my owners initially thought I had been on an unauthorised “shoot”. Placing this picture at the head of the article, (which is all about dogs at Lyme Regis) and using a stunt double of me certainly gives the impression it is taking place on the beach at Lyme Regis.
    To set the record straight I can categorically say that I am not the dog in the picture. The “doppelganger” can be easily found online by searching for “photo of dog biting another dogs tail” the the origin of the picture can then be traced to a site that featured it on October 10, 2013. It is nothing to do with Lyme Regis. Charlie is innocent OK!
    Lastly I would like to say that as a user of Front Beach the majority of owners are very responsible in what they allow us to get up to and are vigilant when small children are around. Also when my friends and I need to be clean many owners share a camaraderie by alerting each other if someone might have not been looking at the appropriate time, to make sure nothing is missed.
    I hope now that I can walk around the town with my head held high!

  5. All the above comments seem to have lost site of the fact that if the main sandy beach area of Lyme Regis was banned to dogs there are acres of other beach available to them.
    I have been a dog owner and a parent and as far as I’m concerned there is no contest, children first!

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