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All-day dog ban at three Cornish beaches faces challenge from owners

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

Dog owners in St Ives are preparing to launch a judicial review to challenge the town council's   24-hour summertime ban on dogs on the town's beaches

Dog owners in St Ives are preparing to launch a judicial review to challenge the town council's 24-hour summertime ban on dogs on the town's beaches

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Campaigners fighting 24-hour summertime beach dog bans in a Cornish resort are planning to launch a judicial review against the town council.

St Ives Dog Owners Group (DOG) opposes the new dog bans due to be implemented this year, which will see dogs barred from Porthmeor, Porthminster and Porthgwidden beaches for the summer months.

The group is planning to challenge St Ives Town Council's decision to implement the bans from May 1 and has sent the council a formal pre-action protocol letter for a judicial review.

Campaigner Barbara Nolan said: "We could not just stand by and let this happen.

"This ban will be introduced on the say-so of a few and against a groundswell of opinion. We are worried about the loss of amenity to local people and to those with disabilities who will find it difficult to access Bamaluz or Lambeth Walk beaches, which would be available to dog-walkers all year round, but have poor access."

St Ives mayor Ron Tulley confirmed the council had received the letter and it was seeking legal advice.

It is the latest twist in a debate which has raged in the town for months.

The council held a consultation last year on the proposals, to which nearly 1,000 people responded, with more than two-thirds of them saying they would oppose a ban.

Despite this, last November, the local authority voted to do away with the current rules that allow dog-walkers onto key bathing beaches before 8am and after 7pm in the summer.

Mrs Nolan said the legal challenge focused on two issues: firstly, that the council reached its decision without considering relevant equality legislation and secondly, that it did not consider the financial impact of the decision.

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17 comments

  • PennyBunn  |  February 17 2013, 6:53PM

    I also requested the same report that StIvesRegular is talking about, and the Council refused to provide it. I made my Freedom of Information request on the public website, 'What Do They Know?', so anyone who wishes to read my exchange with the Town Clerk, Louise Dowe, can access the request at: http://tinyurl.com/b43fetf I have also complained to the Information Commissioner's Office about this and they are investigating. If the Council is SO transparent and keen to share its 'evidence', then why is it refusing to comply with the law and provide a copy of the report that triggered this whole affair? It's no good publishing only the information that you want the public to read - we have a right to see the full report that was presented to the council and was the catalyst to the introduction of the extended DCO.

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  • StIvesregular  |  February 17 2013, 6:37PM

    Hake4life - in terms of your comments about the local newspaper editor are you referring to the St Ives Times and Echo? No I thought not. The PCC is very keen to hear why the local group set up to fight this ban was not given the right to reply to the most recent item.

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  • StIvesregular  |  February 17 2013, 6:35PM

    The evidence is not available on St Ives Town Council website and actually has been refused under FOI by the town council. Also can you please answer my earlier questions and explain how you can recommend sending dogs to areas of SSSI? We fighting this ban are ordinary people who either live or holiday in St Ives and want to be able to walk our dogs in an evening and early morning when the beaches are free of bathers. We pick up after our dogs, if some do not, then use existing legislation to prosecute them! That is already available to the town council, but not currently enforced.

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  • PennyBunn  |  February 17 2013, 4:35PM

    So - WHERE is the beach that can be used by dog owners, then, hake4life? The Defra guidelines require that councils cater for the needs of dog owners and St Ives council has not done so. The ONLY beaches left open to dog owners, during the summer season, are difficult to access and covered by the tide a lot of the time. Any disabled dog owners would have a cast iron case for discrimination against the council, since they can't access those beaches you claim we can use. If it was a 'balanced' decision, WHERE is the nice stretch of sandy beach allocated to the dog owners? Whatever your opinion on this, the fact remains that the council has completely disregarded the overwhelming majority of respondents in a public consultation it was legally obliged to conduct. You and your friends who support the ban were a tiny, tiny minority overshadowed by a huge majority against the ban. Ignoring public opinion is a very high-risk strategy and foolhardy, given the current economic climate. I have read the documents on the Council's website and most of the complaints from visitors focus on the lack of toilet facilities and the very expensive parking in St Ives, neither of which seems to be being addressed. Dog mess features very low down on the list of priorities, but I note that this seems to be the only thing the council is focusing on. It is a convenient excuse for implementing an extended DCO which ONE individual and ONE family wanted. That isn't democracy. Ignoring public opinion as the Council has done is tantamount to committing commercial suicide, and I don't see how you could justify - in a million years - paying lip service to Defra guidelines and holding a public consultation which councillors said from the start they were not intending to take notice of. It seems clear to me that the decision to ban dogs, for the benefit of a very small group of people, was made long before any public consultation was launched and it had nothing whatever to do with dog mess or any problems caused by dogs on St Ives beaches.

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  • hake4life  |  February 17 2013, 4:06PM

    Despite protestations by some, there is evidence of a problem caused by dogs on St Ives' bathing beaches throughout the summer season. This evidence is available to view online on St Ives Town Councils website. Defra say people need dog-free areas and cite children's playgrounds and popular beaches at particular times of year as examples, so the new orders are both lawful and appropriate. Public consultations should never be about who can shout loudest, or who has the ear of the local newspaper editor. There is no substance whatsoever to malicious claims that the decision was anything to do with 'favours for friends' as claimed by some misinformed people.The decision had to be based on balancing the need for dog-free areas with a need for space to exercise dogs; the decision allows for both. Those people wanting to show their support for St Ives Town Councils decision can do so at: https://http://tinyurl.com/as7yomv

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  • PennyBunn  |  February 17 2013, 1:17PM

    No, Terry-g, I am not losing the thread. You have absolutely no evidence that dog mess was causing a problem on St Ives beaches, and in fact, those who have made sensible comments on the subject have said that they've never noticed a problem with it. Since dogs were banned on the beaches during the day, and only allowed on at night, AND since the beach is cleaned daily, and since the tide comes in and out and cleans the beach anyway, it is difficult to see how there CAN have been a problem, anyway. No. This whole thing has been about councillors doing favours for friends, and making it possible for them to fly Blue Flags on the beaches 24/7, instead of having to lower them at night when dogs are on the beaches (and when there's nobody around to see the Blue Flags, anyway!). It even says as much, in the council's own minutes, which are available on their website. What YOU seem to be unable to grasp, is that your opinion, is NOT representative of the vast number of people who voted against the ban in the public consultation the council was obliged to hold, under Defra guidelines. More than two thirds of those who responded to it were against the ban and only a small number of people supported it. Which puts you very much in the minority, Terry-G. In addition, a petition signed by almost a thousand people was submitted to the council, asking that they should not introduce the extended ban. So, when you write your complete rubbish about people not wanting to go on beaches covered in dog mess, bear in mind that a) they weren't and b) you were outvoted by at least 3:1 in the public consultation. You represent CHEATS, in other words! Ignoring public opinion like this is, in my view, tantamount to an Abuse of Public trust by those in office, and they ought to be facing criminal charges for their conduct, in my opinion. I am sure that if the boot were on the other foot, and the council had ignored an overwhelming vote FOR the dog bans, you and your friends would be raising hell about it. As it is, all you can do is claim that we don't know what we are talking about, and make unsubstantiated and ridiculous claims about people sitting in dog mess when they come to your beaches. Absolute rubbish, and surely the words of a man without a leg to stand on! Within the next couple of years, it will be General Election time again, and I expect you will exercise your right to vote? Presumably - given your support for the conduct of St Ives Council - you will have no objection if your own political party wins the Election hands down, but has all its votes discounted by those who are currently in power? Or will it be different, when it's your democratic rights that are being trampled upon? if you want to go and live in a dictatorship, go and live in one. But for as long as Britain calls itself a 'democracy', and for as long as it has voting, and public consultations, which allow the correct democratic processes to take place, then I think it is reasonable for the public to expect that even St Ives council will comply. It was reported in the papers the other week that Cornwall has seen a drop in tourism. I suggest that will be due, in some part, to a reduction in the number of dog owners visiting the South-West. However gleeful you might be at the dog ban right now, Terry-G, I wonder whether you'll be quite so chirpy about it if in the long run, the South West (which depends more than any other area in England on its tourist industry) suffers millions of pounds in loss of revenue and the job losses and company closures that are likely to result? I should point out that many of my friends and relatives, who are boycotting St Ives because they are so appalled at the conduct of the council and the attitude of folks like you, are NOT dog owners and who seem to agree that disregarding the results of public consultations, and manipulating legal processes for your own ends, is acceptable.

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  • PennyBunn  |  February 17 2013, 12:51PM

    No, terry-g. My point was that there are a lot worse things buried in the sand than dog mess, and dog owners have just been victimised by greedy people out to do favours for their friends. Most dog owners these days pick up after their dogs. The vast majority of us are responsible and don't like dog mess any more than anybody else does. The arguments that dog mess is a problem on the beaches in St Ives is supported by no evidence whatsoever, and the vast majority of people who have made comment have said they have rarely spotted any. No - this was an opportunistic bid to do favours for friends and to be able to fly the Blue Flags on the beaches 24/7, instead of having to take them down at night, when dogs were allowed on the beaches. The council minutes actually SAY that that is one of the major reasons behind all this. The action shows a lamentable lack of tolerance, or respect for the views of the vast majority of residents and holiday makers who took part in the public consultation. And this is a key point. More than a thousand people responded to the public consultation, which the council was obligated to hold under Defra guidelines, and registered their objections to the proposals. Public opinion against the ban was a clear two thirds more than the very small number of people who supported it. In addition, a petition attracting around a thousand signatures was submitted, asking that the ban should not be extended. I consider that in hoodwinking the public as they have, the councillors involved are guilty of Abuse of Public Trust and I personally feel that they should face criminal charges for their actions. Anyone who supports such behaviour on the part of people lucky enough to be voted into positions of power, really has no concept of the term 'democracy'. I am sure that if it had been the other way round, the anti-dog brigade would have been raising hell if the council had ignored their 'voice' and lifted the ban, despite an overwhelming vote saying it was warranted. Another General Election will be looming soon. Presumably, supporters of the dog ban will feel their vote counts and will take part in the democratic process of electing local and national government to office. Those who are supporting what St Ives Town Council have done will presumably NOT object, if their own party wins the next General Election hands down, but those currently in power decide to completely disregard those thousands of votes? Or will it be different, when it affects you? If you want to live in a dictatorship, go and live in one. But for as long as we have democracy in Britain, and public consultations and voting which those in authority are supposed to respect, then I think it's reasonable to anticipate that even local councils like St Ives will comply. There has been a drop in tourism to Cornwall and that was reported in your local papers. I didn't write it; it's fact. And one of the reasons will be because dog owners are staying away. Now, you are quite entitled to be delighted by that, terry-g; but I wonder how you will feel in the long-term, if the South-West (which depends more than any other region in England on its tourism industry) loses millions of pounds in revenue and locals are losing jobs and closing businesses? Will you be quite so chirpy about it then, I wonder? It isn't just the dog owners who are staying away because of the ban, anyway. I have a lot of friends and family who do not currently own dogs, but who are so appalled and disgusted at the way this matter has been handled that they've said they won't be coming to Cornwall, on principle. Several have joined me already in boycotting products from Cornwall, and I do think that as this case gains more public and press attention, you will find yourselves paying the consequences.

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  • terry_g  |  February 17 2013, 9:46AM

    Following on from PatBunn's letter I think that he/she is loosing the thread. This is not about the enjoyment of beaches by dog owners, but enjoyment of our beaches by a vast majority of people who DO contribute to the local economy. Dog owners money will not be missed as in their absence more people will be inclined to use the beaches happy in the knowledge that there is nothing undesirable lightly buried in the sand where they wish to sit or play. All this proves what a tunnel visioned group these so called responsible citizens are.

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  • kmp2013  |  February 16 2013, 11:18PM

    There was a public consultation, the overwhelming response was to keep things the way they are. I've been to the beaches mentioned with my young nephew, as well as other dog-friendly beaches. Dog poo is not an issue on the beach from what I have seen.

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  • PennyBunn  |  February 16 2013, 11:16PM

    I'm a former holidaymaker to Cornwall and came down for years, with my dogs. As did most of my family. Originally from Yorkshire, we moved to the East Midlands and I have friends and family across Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Norfolk who previously holidayed in Cornwall on a regular basis and are now boycotting it as a result of these DCOs. St Ives Town Council have brought this extended DCO in for the benefit of a few 'mates', and have ignored the results of the public consultation they were required to hold under Defra guidelines. Essentially, I think they have broken the law and misused their position for the benefit of themselves or their friends. This doesn't seem to bother those who support the ban, whose ethical and moral status I must therefore question. At a time when Britain is in the biggest recession in decades, I'd have thought that businesses and St Ives residents would see the benefit of encouraging loyal holidaymakers to their coastline. With cheap flights abroad so widely available, I'd have thought your 'best bet' financially would be to encourage dog owners to come to your town. Dogs were already - after all - banned from the beaches during the day and all the campaigners are asking for is a return to being able to go on the beaches in the early morning and late evenings. I think the attitude of the pro-ban lobby is illustrative of the kind of intolerance and selfishness that has unfortunately become so prevalent in this country. The sea is already full of thousands of gallons of human excrement and industrial waste that are pumped into it every day; shipping pollution and the excrement and rotting bodies of millions of breeds of marine life, not to mention those who have died at sea. The tide comes up on beaches every day and washes them clean. Given that there is already so much pollution in the sea anyway, I can't see why there is all this focus on dog mess, except that dog owners are being used as a convenient scapegoat for those who want to ban them for their own personal benefit. As a former town councillor myself, I am disgusted (although not entirely surprised) that elected councillors can behave like this. I am not prepared to put money into the local economy of any area where my dogs are not welcome. As a responsible dog owner who always cleans up after my dogs, and keeps them under control, I find it personally insulting that I have been put on trial, and found 'guilty', by a group of greedy people who have never even met any of us. I notice that there are now reports that the Cornish tourist industry is suffering a drop in tourism. I am not surprised. Dog owners across the country are aware that Cornwall is (as one person put it) "closed to dog owners" and I think the 'victory' the anti-dog campaign thinks it has got at the moment will be a hollow one indeed, in the long run. I urge dog owners to avoid St Ives, because they really don't deserve our financial support. And boycott those businesses that have supported the ban. Please join 'Life's a beach - stop the extended dog ban in St Ives' and support the wonderful campaigners who are trying to overturn this gross abuse of public trust on the part of the council.

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