By Julia Penhaligon
The ink is hardly dry on the Cornwall Council decision to relax its rules about dogs on beaches – and already a counter-petition has started calling for some beaches to remain “child-friendly” and for the previous rules to be brought back.
The petition – Residents Against Beaches Invaded by Dogs (RABID) - has so far attracted more than 550 signatures. It disagrees “in the strongest terms with this change on grounds of health and hygiene, public protection, fair access, residents rights, the compromised validity of the consultation process and the impossibility of implementing the stated hours of the new ban.”
The new petitioners have their roots in St Ives, but say they are keen to involve residents from all over Cornwall. Their petition says:
“Cornwall Council has chosen to make all its beaches dog friendly year round, with 16 hour a day access (8 hour daytime bans) on all beaches (July and August for all beaches, 15th May - 30th September for Blue Flag Beaches.)
“Dogs will have access to all beaches from 6pm to 10am the next day, with no out of hours warden control.
“Ourselves, residents of St Ives (origin of this petition) but also of wider Cornwall, being parents and grandparents of young children, working and living locally, amongst us many dog owners, disagree in the strongest terms with this change on grounds of health and hygiene, public protection, fair access, residents rights, the compromised validity of the consultation process and the impossibility of implementing the stated hours of the new ban.
“This policy goes against the wishes of our Harbour Master, fishing communities and RNLI volunteers. The Council have not explained why they have chosen to ignore these viewpoints. This policy means there is not a single dog free beach in Cornwall, prioritising the rights of dogs and dog owners over the needs, rights, health, wellbeing, preference and livelihoods of local workers and residents.
“The consultation process undertaken by Cornwall Council was deeply flawed, offering no specific option to keep the existing ban in place. Those wishing to keep the ban had to write this as a comment. Non residents could vote freely and households anywhere in the country could submit multiple entries, meaning online dog pressure groups with links countrywide have exerted undue influence on a decision that affects primarily locals. We believe this is unfair and should be reviewed urgently.
“The council say that they approached ‘interested parties’, but have not named them and many local organisations and businesses were not consulted.
“Not everyone has easy access to the Internet and some town residents find it difficult to answer questions on-line; the lack of legally required inclusivity in the process is very evident. A director of the St.Ives Tourism Committee has resigned due to this decision, and the majority of local St.Ives Town councillors are strongly opposed.
“In making this decision, Rob Nolan, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Public Protection, has gone directly against the recommendations of the Neighbourhood Overview and Scrutiny Committee (NOSC), citing the flawed consultation as having more sway than the views of his fellow councillors, the relevant committee, and the many hundreds of residents to whose emails he has still not replied. We demand to be heard.
“On health grounds, we demand a review. Children are particularly vulnerable to diseases from dog faeces such as toxocariasis. The NHS website lists preventative measures including avoiding areas that can be used by dogs or cats.
“If this advice is taken literally all Cornish beaches could be out of bounds for children as well as vulnerable people, like the elderly and cancer patients. As can be widely seen on the pavements, pathways and parks of our beautiful county, many dog owners are not responsible enough to collect their dogs faeces, and even diligently collected faeces leave behind traces.”