THE Mayor of Lyme Regis has said the council has an “obligation to protect the public’s safety” as it continues its efforts to see dogs banned from the town’s main beaches all year round.
Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE called once again for a total ban on dogs from Lyme Regis’ sandy beach and Cobb Gate shingle beach at this week’s council meeting.
His comments came as town council members considered a draft consultation document from Dorset Council on its Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), which cover regulations regarding dogs in public spaces.
Following the introduction of a PSPO by the now defunct West Dorset District Council in October 2017, dogs are currently allowed on Lyme’s main sandy beach without a lead between October 1 and May 1. They previously had to be kept on leads at all times.
The PSPO, now enforced by the new Dorset Council, is due to expire on December 31 2020 and a public consultation will be held in the New Year to determine whether any changes should be made to it.
Lyme Regis Town Council objected to the PSPO when it was first introduced, with members arguing that dogs should be kept on leads, and a number of complaints from the public about dogs defecating, urinating and being out of control on the sandy beach have also been received.
Following an incident in which a 12-year-old boy was bitten by a dog on the beach in December 2018, further calls for reconsideration of the policy were made, as well as suggestions of a complete ban of dogs from the sandy beach.
However, the suggestion of a complete ban has proved controversial with some dog owners, who have said it is unfair to penalise well-behaved dogs and owners who clean up after their pets.
A petition opposing the town council’s stance that dogs should be completely banned from the main beaches has been signed by more than 4,300 people.
The petition argues that a complete ban of dogs would be “discrimination” against the majority of responsible dog owners, and would have a negative effect on tourism in the winter and spring months.
The issue has also sparked some of the most vitriolic debates on local social media pages and has been described by the town council as “without doubt the most hotly debated issue in Lyme Regis”.
Speaking during the public forum at this week’s town council meeting, local resident Zoe Patrick offered her support of the town council’s stance.
She said that the situation regarding dogs on the beach had got worse in recent months; it often made it difficult to go swimming in the winter months as there was no dog-free beach, and was “stressful” for those with families and young children.
She also expressed concerns about toxocariasis, which can be found in dog faeces and has been known to cause child blindness.
Mrs Patrick said: “Just one incidence of a child getting an infection that leads to blindness is one too many.”
“We only have a small sandy beach and we need to keep it a clean and safe space to enjoy,” she added.
The mayor, Councillor Larcombe, said he completely agreed with Mrs Patrick’s concerns.
He pointed out that Monmouth Beach, Church Cliff Beach and East Cliff Beach could be used by dogs all year round, adding: “Dogs aren’t bothered which beach they’re walked on, this is more about the owners.”
“Its also about the public, and we have an obligation to protect the public’s safety.
“The pebble beach cannot be raked and if dogs are above the high water line it could be a problem, so the whole of the front beach should not be available to dogs on or off leads.”
Councillor Belinda Bawden opposed the mayor’s views, saying she thought dogs should be allowed on the beaches on leads during the winter months.
Councillor Kelsey Ellis also spoke in favour of this, saying that Monmouth, Church Cliff and East Cliff beaches did not provide good disabled access for those who wanted to walk their dogs.
She proposed that the council request dogs be allowed on the main beaches during the winter months on leads, but this motion failed with only Councillor Bawden supporting it.
The mayor proposed that the town council take all opportunities to oppose dogs being allowed on the sandy beach and Cobb Gate shingle beach all year round, which was agreed.
The council now plans to contact Dorset Council officers to discuss the best way to take this forward, as they felt the draft consultation document did not include options for a complete ban.
It was also agreed last week to look into the possibility of including a ban on dogs from the town’s cemetery in the PSPO.
Dorset Council will make all final decisions regarding the PSPOs and dogs on the beach with the public consultation to begin in the New Year.