A Dog's Dinner?
At a recent Operational Management Committee meeting, it
was clear that Fylde had failed to anticipate the adverse public reaction that its proposals to introduce Public Space Protection Orders in relation to Dog Control would bring.
They were making a 'Dog's Dinner' of the matter.
The public gallery was packed for the meeting, and since then, a significantly large protest group has been building via word of mouth and social media. Matters will come to
a head again shortly.
Fylde's public consultation on the proposals ends on 15th January, so, before the chance for everyone to 'have a say' closes, we thought we'd take our usual, in-depth
look at what's going on.
We also have a wider worry, and that is the increasing trend to use of 'extra judicial' Fixed Penalty Notices - especially, as in this case, to change the traditional
meaning of public open and to qualify the public's ability to use it on the say-so, not of judges and courts, and not of the Police, but on the say-so of the appointed officer
of a Local Authority. We see this as eroding of a fundamental legal freedom that should be the birthright of all people.
We begin with an Introduction and overview background of the change being considered. Then we look at the fundamental
cause of the matter - 'The Anti-Social
Behaviour, Crime And Policing Act of 2014' and within that the proposals around Public Space Protection Orders - with particular reference to the Dog Controls they
We then take a look at the Development of Dog control orders and dog legislation (in brief), before taking a look at What's happened up to now in Fylde.
We begin that with Fylde's early moves on dog control with the introduction of by-laws; then How and why changes were made, and we note the
Most recent call for change.
Then we look at How Fylde has considered dog control orders in the past, first in 2008, then in 2009, and now in
We then undertake our Long analysis of Fylde's latest (Nov 2016) report, before looking at what was Said by then public and by councillors at the meeting.
We then take a short sideways look at an Incident in Wyre that shows how this matter raises passions, before moving on to what has
Happened since Fylde held it's November
16 meeting. Finally we come to some Conclusions and give our own take on the matter.
We went to FBC's Environment Committee on 15 November 2016. Our main reason for going was to hear the update on charges for green bins, (which we will report in a future
article), but when we arrived, the public gallery at the Town Hall was packed to overflowing with people concerned about a different agenda item - one that was headed "Public
Space Protection Orders for Dog Control"
Usually, the public gallery at Fylde has no members of the public listening to the proceedings - or at most, only one or two. Quite often, the people there are officers
waiting to give their reports, or representatives from other organisations delivering a report of some sort. So when large numbers of the public turn up at such a meeting, it's
a sign there is significant concern in the community.
We've been attending meetings and reporting issues at Fylde for over 12 years now, and by doing so, a sort of 'sixth sense' comes into play. Our sense on this item was that
the number of people at the meeting was wholly unexpected, no such problems had been anticipated by Fylde, and it came as a shock out of the blue to members of the Operational
Management Committee that what they thought would be a straightforward issue was going to be so controversial.
There's a popular and commonly held belief that when an issue generates popular protest gatherings like this, (and there have been two demonstrations since the Committee
meeting), then if you multiply the number of people who have turned out to protest by roughly 80, that's the number of the 60,000 or so Fylde electors who are unhappy with what
is being proposed.
And if you're someone who depends on those votes to be elected as a councillor, it makes you twitchy if that is a big number. It makes you especially twitchy if it applies
across the whole of Fylde (as this issue does) because it affects all councillors, not just those in one ward.
Two public gatherings of those opposing Fylde's proposals have already taken place and - by weight of numbers present at the Committee meeting, and the concerns expressed
via the 'Public Platform' there - Fylde has been induced to conceded a public consultation on the matter.
Readers can follow this link to participate in that
consultation using a standard form. (The survey link is on the right of that page, but some might prefer to email or write in their own words).
We have to say we're not impressed with the consultation's design. It's phrasing is not at all impartial, and it is clearly
designed to produce a specific response in support of the proposal. Mostly it follows the logic of 'x body says this is necessary, and y body agree it should be done, do you
agree it should be done?' that sort of thing.
We'll look at it in more detail a bit later, but as usual, we're going to start at the beginning of this matter - which is not in Fylde at all, but in Westminster where, in
2014, the Government enacted the 'Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014'.
This Act introduced many and wide-ranging powers relating to all manner of crime and behaviour. One of these powers (set out in Part 4, Chapter 2 of the Act) introduced
something called' Public Space Protection Orders', or PSPOs.
'THE ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR, CRIME AND POLICING ACT 2014'
The introduction says it is an Act to make provision about anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder.
It includes new legislation about recovering possession of dwelling-houses; it amends the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Police Act 1997, parts of the Terrorism Act of 2000, and
the Extradition Act of 2003. It also amends Part 3 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011; with provisions about firearms, sexual harm and violence and forced
marriage; and a number of other matters which include PSPOs.
Like the curate's egg, some of the Act is good and sensible. But it has quite a lot of provisions about which we are not happy. For example, we worry about the increasing
trend to legislate about people's civility to each other - when we see the purpose of the law as being to categorise quantifiable and provable acts or omissions as being
contrary to the common law, with transgression leading to prosecution, and conviction leading to sanctions to change behaviour.
We are now at the point where, with an Order in place, a non-police officer can, at their discretion, decide whether someone has contravened the Order - and can issue an on
the spot fine (technically called a 'fixed penalty notice').
The days when only the Police enforced our law are fast disappearing.
Within this Brave New World of social control, a council can designate almost anyone to become an 'Authorised Officer' - to decide whether you have contravened the Order
they have made which prohibits (or requires) certain actions within an area.
Breach of an order, without reasonable excuse, becomes a criminal offence and subject to a fixed penalty notice of (currently) up to £100 - or sometimes it can bring a more
The origins of this direction lie in the earlier 'Anti Social Behaviour Orders' (ASBOs).
These were the subject of our article 'ASBO or Anarchy?' back in 2007.
In that article, we reproduced and expressed our support for a thoughtful and concerning article written by an editorial writer for 'The Fylde Villager' called Howard
He made the point that it was dangerous to suppose that ASBOs were just a 'sexed up' version of a suspended sentence - because a suspended sentence could only be given by a
magistrate or a judge, but anyone, from a police officer to a housing association landlord can request an ASBO, and it seems that in 99.2% of cases the requested ASBO is made.
Finally, he was also concerned that ASBOs could be given for things that were not currently criminal offences, like noise nuisance, and verbal abuse.
He noted that these things are not offences is because it is impossible to define at what level they become an offence. He said that personally, he thought ringing church
bells on a Sunday morning counted as noise nuisance, but he was sure that the majority of vicars wouldn't agree with him.
Shortly after ASBOs were introduced, we recall one of our readers looking into whether he could secure an ASBO against the former Commissar at Fylde for planning to close our
swimming pools - arguing that it was an anti-social act. He got as far as establishing that such an action could be defined as being anti-social within the law, but his plan
fell down because it required either the police or a local authority to designate what was, and was not, anti-social, and Fylde was unlikely to give itself an ASBO, was it?
Mr Clemmow's main concern however, (which we share), was that ASBOs rode roughshod over legal precedent that we have fought wars to protect.
The main difference we see is that outside the judge-made law, ASBOs were set out as a range of civil powers. They offered an alternative to criminal prosecution and gave
the police *and other agencies* the ability to deal with the cumulative impact of an individual’s behaviour, rather than focus on a specific offence. Some powers, such as the
ASBI (used by Social Landlords), even required a lower standard of proof (that is, the civil “balance of probabilities” rather than the criminal law's" beyond reasonable
We have a real problem with mixing the status of nuisance, annoyance, the taking of offence, and some aspects of disorder, being mixed up with, and addressed, in the same
legislation as the commission of a recognised crime. It steps further toward what we regard as excessive control exercised by the state.
We're happy with judges making law with regard to what is, and is not, a criminal offence regarding public behaviour. In our experience, most Judges have great respect for the
traditional freedoms of our country, but we're not at all happy with the state usurping their job.
And we're even less happy with the direction that this matter is taking as it steps further away from proper and traditional definitions of criminality and prosecution and
into social control. (Though we guess folk like Robert Mugabe wouldn't agree with us).
And so it was, that the 'Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime And Policing Act' of 2014 took the former ASBO legislation to a new level.
For those that want to know more, the House Of Commons produced a factsheet about the proposals before it was passed by Parliament. Our readers wanting better understanding
can follow this link to download a copy of the Bill's Explanatory Notes. or follow this link to read a full copy of the legislation as enacted.
PART 4, CHAPTER 2: PUBLIC SPACES PROTECTION ORDERS
This section of the 2014 Act addresses a wide range of matters. The Act's official Explanatory Notes say it is:
'.....intended to deal with a particular nuisance or problem in a particular area that is detrimental to the local community’s qualify of life, by imposing conditions on the
use of that area.'
In effect this has allowed the removal of a traditional right the public has enjoyed throughout history.
It re-defines a 'public open space' from being somewhere you, as a member of the public, have a right to be, and has turned it into being somewhere you may be, as long as you do (or don't do) this this
We see this as a fundamentally bad thing. This section also says:
'An order can be issued either by a local authority..... or by a body designated by the Secretary of State in respect of land that it has the power to regulate by virtue of
any enactment – for example, the City of London Corporation could be designated to make orders in respect of lands it manages on behalf of local authorities, such as Epping
Forest and Hampstead Heath....'
The 'Authorised Person' to implement sanctions can be
a) a constable;
(b) the relevant local authority;
(c) a person designated by the relevant local authority.
Readers can follow this link for the full text of the Act's Explanatory notes for Part 4 Chapter 2
in 2015, The Guardian published an article called
'PSPOs: the new control orders threatening our public spaces'
which spoke about 'a growing number of councils proposing Public Space Protection Orders – a geographically defined version of asbos that could severely restrict people’s
freedoms in urban spaces.'
'PSPOs allow for broad powers to criminalise behaviour that is not normally criminal. But where asbos were directed at individuals, PSPOs are geographically defined, making
predefined activities within a mapped area prosecutable.'
It also quoted Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club who wrote, "the 201 4 guidance places minimal restrictions on the uses of PSPOs, leaving it open for these powers to be
targeted against public activities that are merely considered unusual or unpopular, or with which the council disagrees" .
The Guardian article gave several examples of PSPO proposals and dubious use in the UK including Hackney, where the council attempted to make rough sleeping a criminal
offence within a designated area, and in Kensington and Chelsea, where consultation was taking place on an order that would make driving loud cars an offence, (targeted at rich
foreigners cruising the area in Maseratis and Lamborghinis), and in Oxford, where the council passed a PSPO that prohibits people under the age of 21 from entering a specific
It also quotes Anna Minton, author of 'Ground Control : Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First Century City', saying "PSPOs represent a serious ramping up of the control of
public space. The privatisation of public space brings with it a host of undemocratic controls on access and behaviour – but PSPOs are at least as concerning, as they are a
legislative means of restricting the right to behave freely under the law within city space, regardless of whether it’s public or private....."
Bradley L Garrett (the author of the Guardian article) noted: 'Greater public awareness on PSPOs is needed – in part because they effectively outsource policing to private
security, allowing "an authorised person" to issue fines and initiate prosecution. Furthermore, fines can be given out where there may have been a contravention, not where one
has definitely taken place; so the process is a bit like a forced plea bargain – if a private security guard, potentially employed by a property developer, thinks you may have
violated the PSPO , you must pay the fine or face prosecution.'
The well respected organisation 'Liberty' has mounted a campaign against Public Space Protection Orders, arguing they are broad powers which allow councils to criminalise
particular, non-criminal, activities taking place within a specified area.
Liberty say they are being used to limit freedom of speech and the right to protest.
They had opposed their introduction – because they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised, and carry disproportionately punitive sanctions.
Justifying this stance, they report that several local councils across the country have recently introduced – or consulted on – unfair and overbroad PSPOs. A range of
measures have been proposed, including a ban on rough sleeping and 'aggressive' and 'persistent' begging – "persistent" being defined by the authority as begging "on more than
Liberty has been active in challenging what they see as the worst sort of examples of proposed PSPOs, including a blanket ban on begging, rough sleeping and free leaflet
distribution, among other activities in Newport. They also argued against restricting busking to designated areas, forcing musicians to gain "approved busker" status by passing
quality tests, and criminalising anyone feeding birds in the city centre in Cheshire West and Chester.
They say Birmingham City Council scrapped plans over a PSPO which would have made it a criminal offence for buskers, political or religious speakers to use any amplification
in the city – threatening the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. Liberty's lawyers wrote to Birmingham Council with concerns about the impact the PSPO would
have on protesters and religious groups, such as the Salvation Army, who frequently meet in public in the city centre.
Salford City Council introduced a PSPO in August 2015 criminalising the use of all "foul and abusive language" in an area covering Salford Quays. Liberty wrote to Salford
City Council requesting clarification on the imprecise parameters of the Order, advising that the PSPO could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression.
Liberty is particularly concerned that, in its current vaguely worded form, that Order will have a negative impact on artistic performers and political activists in the Salford
So PSPOs are not getting a universal welcome, and those concerned with our essential freedoms and with proper law and democracy have cause to be concerned at the direction
the recent Coalition Government set for us with this Act.
DOG CONTROL ORDERS AND DOG LEGISLATION (IN BRIEF)
Although specific problems such as road traffic and agricultural animal protection have been the subject of Acts of Parliament going back to the 1870s, for most of local
government's history, control of activities on public open space has been available by the enactment of Bye-laws.
These are not things a local Council can simply decide to implement, their aim and wording has to be proportionate and it must balance the competing needs of various users.
They have to be approved by Government (who published model bye-laws from which councils could crib their own), and there was a long and slow period of consultation - sometimes
taking years - for a council to have draft bye-laws confirmed.
Most of the dog control legislation on public spaces (such as public walks, pleasure grounds, parks, gardens and open spaces) began its life as a bye-law made under the
Public Health Act of 1875 and the Open Spaces Act of 1906.
But that changed when the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act of 1996, created a new specific offence of failure to clean up became subject to a maximum fine of £1,000. But it also
offered the option of paying a fixed penalty fine of up to £80 rather than going to court.
This was specific legislation about dog fouling and, because it was quite tightly drawn (for example it excluded agricultural land and it had certain other requirements),
councils themselves were allowed to make 'Orders' (which are basically nothing more than a formally-worded written statement) to define the land to which it would apply.
But things changed again when 'The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005' gave councils in England and Wales the power to issue new 'Dog Control Orders'. These
orders can restrict where you can walk a dog on and off lead, how many dogs you can walk at one given time, and makes it an offence not to clean up after your dog.
The technicalities are that sections 55 to 67 of this 2005 Act, give local authorities and parish councils the right and ability to make dog control orders (“DCOs”)
to cover five offences:
- a. failing to remove dog faeces;
- b. not keeping a dog on a lead;
- c. not putting, and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer;
- d. permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded; or
- e. taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land.
These were not so tightly defined as the former fouling legislation and allowed councils more flexibility in how they were implemented.
More recently the 'Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014' introducing new legislation about control of dogs was debated and approved by Parliament, and now a
provision of that (Public Space Protection Orders) replaces and repeals the provisions of former legislation once a PSPO is adopted.
The House of Commons' Explanatory Notes appertaining to the Bill's proposals briefly mention the measures for Dog Control using PSPO's saying:
"The public spaces protection order is intended to deal with a particular nuisance or problem in a particular area that is detrimental to the local community’s qualify of
life, by imposing conditions on the use of that area.
The order could also be used to deal with likely future problems.
It will replace designated public place orders, gating orders and dog control orders.
Examples of where a new order could be used include prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public parks or ensuring dogs are kept on a leash in children’s play areas. It
could also prohibit spitting in certain areas (if the problem were persistent and unreasonable). This is currently covered in local byelaws.
Only a local authority can issue the order, and before doing so, they must consult with the chief officer of police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and any
representatives of the local community they consider appropriate – for example, a local residents group or a community group that regularly uses the public place.
Orders will last for up to three years before requiring a review, however there is no limit on the number of times an order can be reviewed and renewed. There is a
requirement to inform the chief of police and any other community representatives on review and renewal (as with the original order). The review requirements will be different
depending on the prohibitions or requirements being applied – for instance, an order requiring dogs are kept on their leash in a children’s play area is unlikely to necessitate
the same level of review as an order prohibiting any access to a public place to deal with a short-term issue such as localised crime.
An order can be varied or discharged at any time by the local authority
The two-part test for issuing the order will be that the local authority is satisfied on reasonable grounds that that activities carried on or likely to be carried on are
detrimental to the local community’s quality of life, and that the impact justifies restrictions being put in place in a particular area. The behaviour must also be ongoing and
The order can prohibit certain things (for example, drinking alcohol), require specific things to be done (for example, keeping dogs on leashes), or both. Unlike the orders
this power will replace, only one order will be required to deal with a specific place, with one consultation. For instance, a single order could be used to prohibit drinking
in a specific park as well as ensuring dogs were kept under control, through either being kept on a leash or limiting the number of dogs an individual can walk at one time."
"Breach of the order, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence, subject to a fixed penalty notice (of £100) or prosecution. On summary conviction, an individual
would be liable to a fine not exceeding £1,000. It is also an offence to fail to comply with a request to cease drinking or surrender alcohol in a controlled drinking zone
punishable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500. If alcohol is confiscated, it can also be disposed by the person who confiscates it."
Notably, Paragraph 155 of the Explanations says that the public spaces protection order will be different from the powers it will to replace in several ways. One example of
this is that Parish Councils lose their current ability to make their own dog control orders under PSPO legislation - only a principal (borough) council can make them. Another
difference is that PSPOs can prohibit a wider range of behaviour, with a fixed penalty notice available on breach. It goes on to say.....
"This is following feedback in the consultation from local authorities that current byelaws are hard to enforce as the only option available to local agencies is to take an
individual to court if they fail to comply, which can be costly and time-consuming"
And in our view, coupled with the inability to extend the controls imposed by earlier legislation that subsequent acts have repealed, this financial aspect is what is
driving Fylde's present proposal.
WHAT'S HAPPENED AT FYLDE UP TO NOW?
EARLY MOVES AT FYLDE
In the 1980s and 1990s, after some well publicised and horrific attack on young children by domestic dogs, the Government introduced a flawed knee-jerk reactive legislation
called the 'Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991.' Having dealt with the adverse newspaper headlines by passing this Act, it did seem to assuage public outrage, and the Home Office
settled down to look at some more serious research about the impact of dogs on people.
As counterbalance first reported in 'In The Doghouse' in 2009, This research identified two main problems associated with dogs and people.
The most obvious was the result of defecation left for people to step-in on the street and public spaces.
But to a much greater extent there was concern for the unpleasantness, and the health risks of infection from the dog faeces that could be found in children's play areas and
on sports pitches.
The second and perhaps less obvious problem, was that of unruly and boisterous dogs whose owners either did not care, or were not capable of effecting adequate control. The
Home Office found evidence that people - and especially children - were fearful when an unknown dog would run up to them and perhaps jump up at them.
Conscious of the Home Office reports and the underlying data, Councils, including Fylde, began to consider whether something should be done to change behaviour of some of
the people in charge of dogs.
The Council of the day were aware of concern from both sides of the arguments for and against controlling dogs and their owners, but most especially, they were concerned
about the growing pressure from members of the public for action to control fouling.
They considered, (but decided not to) introduce specific dog exercise areas or 'dog loo areas' within their open spaces.
What they did do was reviewed their landholdings and took four actions.
- Some areas would remain free and open for the exercise of dogs without restriction.
- Some areas would have a complete prohibition on dogs.
- Some would have dogs on leads bye-laws.
- Most would have a requirement for owners to clean up after their pets.
Because Fylde's dog prohibitions (for reasons of both hygiene and fear reduction) were on such limited areas (chiefly the small areas around children's
playground equipment that were fenced and enclosed for this purpose), most dog owners accepted these without demur.
There was some resistance and objection to the 'dogs on leads' bye laws, but it was argued that the Council had selected the areas for such bye-laws with
thought and some care, and there were other areas available for free roaming off the lead - and eventually, people accepted them.
With the potential for boisterous dogs, the bye-laws were applied to those places which were primarily children's play areas, sports pitches, tranquil
ornamental or historically important gardens, and areas provided primarily for their important wildlife content such as the St Annes Nature reserve. Logically these areas would
include playgrounds. An example would be Ashton Gardens (which was, at that time, considered to be about tranquillity, and it was registered as a historically important
The relevant Bye-laws were designed, consulted on, modified as a result, sent to the Home Office and changed once more, and eventually implemented.
Within their existing job descriptions, the new byelaws were policed by a team of four patrolling Park Rangers; the nature reserve warden; the council's dog warden service;
and to a lesser extent, the fourteen games attendants on bowls and other sports area sites throughout the main parks and gardens.
'Policing' was light touch, with an emphasis on changing attitude by logic and persuasion rather than enforcement, and we can only recall one prosecution.
One snag of this regime was that it was often difficult to *prove* which dog belonged to which owner when a group of dogs were involved and one was defecating with
no picking up.
It was also difficult where the dog was at some considerable distance from anyone else within eyesight. (We understand why his might seem strange. It's true that
the dog was straightforward of course, but the standard of proof required to establish the ownership and thus responsibility for control of that dog that was demanded by a
prosecution, had to establish ownership and control as a fact 'beyond reasonable doubt').
Having someone physically connected to a defecating dog removed the possibility of denial of ownership or control and, for this reason, the 'dogs on leads' byelaws were
extended more widely than they might otherwise have been.
This was probably unfortunate as it reduced the area for free running, but it did give those charged with changing
behaviour about fouling a clearer argument to advance to recalcitrant individuals and offer the prospect of more successful prosecutions fro those who simply would not comply.
In general, things settled down and worked tolerably well for several years.
CHANGES ARE MADE TO DOG CONTROLS
But then, as time went by, three things happened.
First, and perhaps understandably, the areas subject to the dog bye-laws were extended - often following complaints from members of the public. This extending of the scope
of the byelaws offers a relatively easy way to placate an unhappy community.
Second, the 'policing' aspects (using the staff we mentioned above) were lost when Fylde's Commissar decided the priority for this sort of employee could not be financially
justified when he wanted other work done, and these posts were first reduced in number, then abandoned altogether.
So by 2009, there were no park rangers, there was no nature reserve warden, and there were no games attendants, so there was almost no-one available who could use the
bye-laws as a basis to persuade people to conform with them for the health and safety of other members of the public.
As a result, there was virtually no-one to undertake persuasion - or even enforcement. And gradually, over several years, the byelaws came to be disregarded.
It follows that the problems that had once mostly been solved (or at least reduced to an acceptable level), resurfaced again.
A CALL FOR ANOTHER REVIEW
And sure enough, at the Council's Annual Meeting in 2013, St Annes Cllr Edward Nash said:
“What is the current situation regarding the control of dogs with leads? It has been brought to my attention and I have personally observed an increasing number of dogs off
leads both in St Anne’s Town Centre and also the promenade gardens, sea front and Ashton Gardens.
Whilst I congratulate Councillor Pounder on recent measures to enforce the regulations appertaining to dog fouling, I am nevertheless concerned over a lack of guidance over
dogs and leads. We have several by-laws in being requiring dog walkers to keep dogs on a lead in certain areas, namely Sections 14-19 and these were superseded a few years ago
by control orders. Are these orders still in place? Are they being policed?"
And Councillor Pounder replied
"... there are areas in the Fylde covered by bye-laws regarding dogs off leads and the exclusion of dogs from certain areas. However, these bye-laws don’t provide for the
use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN). They can only be enforced by prosecution which could result in a fine and the dog owner having a criminal record. Gathering the evidence for
a prosecution is time-consuming and in doing so officers would not be available for routine dog-fouling patrol. There is little formal enforcement of these bye-laws, and the
dog-enforcement wardens generally respond by issuing verbal advice to offenders except in the event of an incident with a dangerous dog. Councillor Pounder said that he was
discussing with officers the possibility of using legislative provisions which would allow the issuing of FPNs for various matters including keeping dogs on leads. Such matters
would be subject to wide-ranging consultation. With reference to signage, he was aware that some signs had become damaged and there was a rolling programme of repairs."
Councillor Nash then asked a supplementary question which was whether Fylde Borough Council was aware of the problem of professional dog walkers managing anything up to 8 dogs at
a time. These dogs were not properly under control and he asked whether any regulation was contemplated. Councillor Pounder said this was also an area which was being looked
at, but reminded members that even if the council wanted to take these issues forward, consultation would be needed before any action could be taken.
FYLDE CONSIDERS DOG CONTROL ORDERS
Bach in March 2008, Fylde's Cabinet had received a report headed 'Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005: Proposed Dog Control Order.'
Cllr Tim Ashton (Cabinet Portfolio for Streetscene) presented the report and informed the Cabinet that new statutory powers enabled the council to make orders to control
dogs. These dog control orders could, among other things, require dogs to be held on leads. They could also be enforced by issuing fixed penalty notices set at (then) £75,
unless the council chose to set a different level.
The report said "Much of the borough is covered by a patchwork of dog byelaws. The proposal is to start regularising these by replacing all the present “dogs on leads”
byelaws by dog control orders making it an offence to not keep a dog on a lead. The main advantage of this is that it will allow enforcement by issuing fixed penalty notices,
instead of having to go through the magistrates’ court."
The report proposed replacing the existing 'dogs on leads' byelaws with the equivalent Dog Control Order. (allowing the use of fixed penalty notices for dogs for the first
time at Fylde).
The Cabinet resolved
1. To carry out the necessary consultations and advertising to make a dog control order under the section 55 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which will
require dogs to be kept on leads in the areas presently covered by dogs on leads byelaws as listed in the report (except Bush Lane Playing Fields, Freckleton).
2. To make an order for those purposes if no representations are received as a result of the consultation and advertising processes.
We think the 'Freckleton exclusion' was because Freckleton Parish Council had already made a Dog Control Order, (which Parish Councils were allowed to do under that Act)
But it appears that FBC did not execute the decision of Cabinet, and that status seems to be confirmed by Fylde's most recent report which says
"There are currently a number of byelaws covering parts of the borough (designated areas) that require dogs to be held on leads or excluded during particular periods
(amenity beach). Fixed penalty notices cannot be issued under the byelaws."
It was this Cabinet decision of 2008 that prompted our 2009 article 'In The Doghouse' where we said that we fundamentally disagree with this approach - not for reasons
connected with dogs - but because we have a problem in principle with on-the-spot fines.
However, the matter had been so ineptly handled by Fylde, that people thought completely new forms of dog control were being imposed - and with this and the extending of
areas for 'dogs on leads' they became angered.
Well, either that, or some dog owners were cross at the prospect of facing on-the-spot fines for things they have become accustomed to doing through a lack of policing since
the staff to do so were disbanded.
It might have been the strongly adverse public reaction that had something to do with the Cabinet Decision not being actioned, but we can't be sure exactly why it was not
We do know that a year later, in March 2009, and following more adverse press publicity and complaints from residents mostly about fouling, Cllr Tony Ford asked for the
matter of dog fouling to be looked at again and in more detail.
Fylde's Scrutiny Management Board agreed it was
"a high priority issue which merited that the matter should go straight to a Task and Finish Group which would ultimately
report to the Community Outlook Scrutiny Committee"
And on 17 September 2009 the Scrutiny Committee received the report of the Task and Finish Group who had looked into the details. (Readers can
follow this link to read the
full Task and Finish report). There were seven recommendations:
That Cabinet should consider the purchase of identified equipment which will support existing and future Dog Warden/Enforcement staff.
That the council adopts a co-ordinated approach to reduce dog-fouling by the introduction of Dog Control Orders under the Cleaner Neighbourhoods and
Environment Act, alongside recognised promotional campaigns.
That a dedicated Enforcement Officer be appointed at the earliest opportunity.
That responsible officers should improve publicity and undertake public consultation with regards to the Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.
That the council should install additional signage, and improve existing signage in key areas, especially along the promenade and on the approach to beaches and open
spaces so that public are aware of restrictions and penalties.
That the Litter Bin/Dog Bin replacement programme is implemented as soon as possible through the use of efficiency and service savings.
That Cabinet endorse the proposal to draw up a timetable of, and allocate resources to, the renewal of Dog Fouling & Dogs on Lead signs on lamp posts.
That report (urging the introduction of Dog Control Orders under the 2005 Act) went to Fylde's Cabinet on 18 November 2009 asking them to support the seven recommendations.
But the Cabinet didn't do that. They debated the issue and resolved that officers and the Scrutiny Committee should:
"Present a report to the January meeting of Cabinet detailing:
The budget implications of recommendations 1 to 7 above of the Scrutiny Committee.
Proposals for improved public consultation on dog control matters operating in the Borough and the two separate issues of a) controls which require dogs to be kept on
leads and, b) legal provisions which seek to control dog fouling."
And as far as we can tell, that's another resolution of Cabinet that has never been fulfilled.
We looked through Fylde's Cabinet Agenda for the next two years and a bit more beyond, but we still couldn't find the further report at all.
It certainly didn't happen in January 2010 (as instructed by the resolution), and we couldn't find it on any agenda within the following two years.
So it's likely that nothing has been done and the Cabinet's phrasing of its resolution in response to the Scrutiny recommendation has the feel (to us) of kicking the matter
into the long grass - where it can disappear.
On 8th March 2016 Fylde pressed the re-set button and started again from base one with dog control regulations.
It's no surprise that the mater arose in March, because that's the time of year (at the end of the winter) when no grasscutting has taken place to disperse fouling that has
accumulated on green areas since the previous October.
Interestingly, the report on the matter went to Fylde's Operational Management Committee.
In our view - because the proposed dog control orders mostly affect parks and public open spaces (which are lands within the terms of reference of the Tourism and Leisure
Committee) it should have gone to T&L as the lead committee, with the Environment Committee who have responsibility for the beach also being invited to contribute. But the
designated lead committee on this matter was Operational Management Committee.
We find this choice of committee interesting because it seems that, increasingly, Fylde's Operational Management Service is assuming the lead in finding ways to generate
money for the Council.
It is this department that now offers commercial services such as grounds maintenance under income-producing contracts to external bodies, and who offer MOT services etc in
competition with local garages, and who are pushing forward the implementation of Green Bin Charges that will deliver more income for Fylde.
Now they are reporting proposals for dog control that Fylde can use to generate income from Fixed Penalty Notices (just as Fylde has done with Car Parks, where fees and
fixed penalty notices raised an astonishing £347,000 last year according to a RAC survey. (We should say that Fylde dispute this figure saying it was *only* £300,535).
A report to the Operational Management Committee produced the following minute and resolution;
"Kathy Winstanley presented the report that outlined the proposal for the establishment of a cross party member working group with the scope to 'Investigate the possible use
and implications of Public Space Protection Orders at Fylde and to make recommendations on whether they should be used, where they should be used and for what activities they
should be used.'
Mrs Winstanley explained that Public Space Protection Orders had wide ranging implications to enable a local authority to make an order on any public space if the activities
being carried out had a detrimental impact on the quality of life for the local community, and that it was likely that those activities would persist.
The primary objective of the working group would be to consider the impact on public open spaces of activities related to dog walking, in particular dogs roaming without a
leash and individuals in charge of an excessive number of dogs, usually as part of a commercial venture.
The cross party working group would consider whether Public Space Protection Orders could mitigate the negative impact from activities on public open spaces and would report
back to the Operational Management committee with recommendations.
As the issues covered would have implications under the remit of the Tourism and Leisure and Environment, Health and Housing committees it was proposed that the working
group consisted of members from all three committees"
and following a brief discussion it was RESOLVED:
"That the committee agreed to establish a cross party working group to consider the introduction of Public Space Protection Orders across the borough which would report
back to the Operational Management committee and make any appropriate recommendations.
That the cross party working group established consist of seven elected members with three from the Operational Management Committee, two from the Tourism and Leisure
Committee and two from the Environment, Health and Housing Committee
That the three representatives from the Operational Management Committee are the Chairman, Councillor David Eaves, Vice Chairman Councillor Albert Pounder and Councillor
That the Chairs of Tourism and Leisure and Environment, Health and Housing are asked to nominate two representatives from their committee to be part of the cross party
We're less than enthusiastic about that last resolution. Apart from having put the 'wrong' committee in charge, the 'right' way to select a cross-party committee would have
been to ask the T&L and Environment *Committees* to nominate two people rather than ask their Chairmen to do so.
Once again we see Fylde trying to run its committees as though it was still operating a Cabinet.
Sure enough, the Working Group met and deliberated on three occasions. They produced their recommendations to Fylde's Operational Management Committee on 15 November 2016.
That said, the report itself is not from the Working Group per se (although the recommendations are).
According to the standard information box on all agenda items, the report's lead author is an officer, 'Kathy Winstanley' so it's not at all clear that the views in the
report are the views of the Working Group, even though the recommendations are.
FYLDE'S LATEST DOG CONTROL REPORT
Readers can follow this link to download a copy of Fylde's officer's dog control report to the Council's Operational Management Committee on 15 November 2016. We've picked
out the highlights here.
All Fylde's reports have a standard box near the beginning which sets out a 'Summary if Previous Decisions.'
The box on this report is a bit on the sparse side, because it only goes back to March this year (when the recent working party was formed).
It makes no mention at all of the Task and Finish report and recommendations that were considered by Fylde's Cabinet on 18 November 2009, nor does it mention what the
Cabinet resolved at that time. (A cynic might suggest it has been omitted because Cabinet's resolution doesn't appear to have been carried out by Fylde's officers)
Nor does it mention the earlier Cabinet report and decision in March 2008 which instructed officers to make a dog control order under the section 55 of the 'Clean
Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005' which would require dogs to be kept on leads. (perhaps for the same reason if this instruction has also not been undertaken as we
And it doesn't mention the previous decisions that resulted in the original dog control Byelaws and orders (including order No2 in 2000, which makes it an offence not to
remove faeces deposited by a dog on 'Any land in the open air, including covered land which is open to the air on at least one side and to which the public have access without
payment' (which is pretty comprehensive in terms of scope).
So, as a summary of the Council's previous decisions, we didn't think it was a very complete one.
Like many of Fylde's reports these days, this one appears to embark on a route to produce a specific and desired result, rather than a process to deliver balanced pros and
cons from both sides of an argument, from which the elected councillors can properly debate the matter.
The report itself begins with 'Background' information, opening with
"The Dog Enforcement Service (the Service) covers the Council’s statutory obligations including aggressive dogs, strays and fouling enforcement."
You can quite easily get the angle this report is coming from its opening sentence. It doesn't open with something like 'dogs are an important part of many people's lives
but there is a need for the Council to properly consider and balance the sometimes competing requirements of dog owners and others'
No, it begins from an enforcement perspective, and sees Fylde's main role not as meeting the needs of the community, but as meeting its statutory obligations. It doesn't set
out to balance different needs. It is a hard-hearted, clinical and 'inhuman' approach. That's the classic direction an efficient officer adopts when left to their own devices.
(That's not intended as a criticism of the offer concerned, the role of officers is about efficiency and delivering uniformity and consistency. It's the job of councillors
to humanise the natural 'ruthlessness' of the officer class by inserting people and their needs into the equation's balance. The tension this creates between officers and
members is a necessary (and good) part of a well run council, but things go wrong when the that tension is out of balance).
The report goes on to say
"Since 2010 the Service has undergone a number of changes including the removal of welfare, active promotion to encourage residents to report fouling and changes to working
arrangements. Since January 2014, there have been 2 dog wardens, working a 71 hour fortnight shift pattern, providing coverage from 7am-7pm Monday-Friday and a varying 6 hour
shift on a Saturday."
What this may not adequately explain is that the oversimplified quote 'removal of welfare' belies what was a sea-change in Fylde's thinking on dogs.
As we said earlier, back in the 1980s and 1990s, the dog control bye-laws were policed by a team of four patrolling Park Rangers; the nature reserve warden; the council's
dog warden service; and to a lesser extent, the fourteen games attendants on bowls and other sports area sites throughout the main parks and gardens. 'Policing' was undertaken
specifically with a light touch, with an emphasis on changing attitude by logic and persuasion rather than enforcement.
And up to 2010, this approach prevailed, and in addition to the parks and nature reserve staff, Fylde employed 'Dog Welfare Officers' with a strong focus on welfare and
education as part of a preventative approach sought by the Council.
But this all changed in October 2010/11 when the Cabinet instructed the Customer and Operational Services Director to reallocate all dog welfare service resources and any
other support resources to enforcement and away from welfare and education. Support for this approach was reiterated by the Overview and Scrutiny committee in the
recommendations made as a result of the budget preparation work in January 2011.
Readers who want full details can follow this link for the final report effecting this change.
And in 2011 Fylde's Cabinet approved the report from the April Community Focus Scrutiny Committee which had indeed recommended to shift the focus of the dog service away
from welfare and education to enforcement.
Cabinet also decided to see the impact of this change on dog fouling enforcement when they have had the opportunity to be fully implemented (in 8 to 12 months). Cabinet
further decided to promote the reporting of waste enforcement offences.
It was at this point that Fylde had its change of heart. It ceased it's traditional role and become 'the enforcer' of regulations.
With this move, Fylde dropped its carrot, and bought out its stick with which to beat dog owners.
We've digressed again! Back to the 2016 report....... It goes on to summarise the present position, saying ......
"3. Currently, dog fouling is enforced with fixed penalty notices (£50) under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996"; and
"5. The majority of children’s play areas have signs advising that dogs should not be exercised in these locations. These signs are purely for guidance and there are
currently no legislative controls enabling enforcement."; and
"6. There are currently no restrictions on the number of dogs being exercised by one person within the borough. The open locations within the borough, for example the dunes
and beach, are utilised by visitors and dog walkers exercising numerous dogs at once, usually off the lead."
"7. There are currently a number of byelaws covering parts of the borough (designated areas) that require dogs to be held on leads or excluded during particular periods
(amenity beach). Fixed penalty notices cannot be issued under the byelaws. There is an existing Dog Control Order implemented by Freckleton Parish Council on Bush Lane Playing
Fields which will lapse in 2017 unless replaced with a PSPO."
It goes on to add
"The only way to enforce the byelaws is through prosecution, which would reduce the officer time available for the Service’s statutory obligations and priorities.
A successful prosecution would lead to an owner having a criminal record for failing to keep their dog on a lead in a designated area.
In-line with guidance provided to the Service, currently a purely educational approach is utilised.
Owners are reminded that their dogs should be held on the lead in the designated areas and requested to leave the exclusion zone on the amenity beach during the peak season.
Additional signage erected in 2015 assisted with the educational patrols. However, feedback from residents and officers’ observations has demonstrated that some owners are
fully aware of the byelaws but refuse to comply or only comply when the wardens are present."
We've no great issue with (5), some playgrounds have them but others don't; and we've no problem with (6) because to our knowledge this hasn't been raised as an issue
before. (7) seems to be correct - because previous decisions of Cabinet have not been implemented, but the dog fouling statement in (3) was a bit of a puzzle to us at first, so
we looked up the position.
The officer report says that currently dog fouling is enforced with Fixed Penalty Notices under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996, but we know that this Act was repealed
(by section 65 of) the 'Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005' - so at first we couldn't understand why Fylde was still using it.
The reason, once again, is Fylde's failure to implement the decisions of the Cabinet and follow through with the Council's instructions.
Although the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 has been repealed, Section 4 of the Order commencing the repeal provision (that is, s4 of 'The Clean Neighbourhoods and
Environment Act 2005 (Commencement No.1,Transitional and Savings Provisions) (England) Order 2006') preserves the offence under the 1996 Act for designation orders made prior
to the repeal - unless a new order is made on that land and it 'supersedes' the old 1996 Act.
This is why Fylde is still using the older legislation for enforcement.
The officer report continues to explain how Public Space Protection Orders Work, noting the Act says that although existing dog control orders remain
enforceable for three years, they lapse after that time,
So whilst Fylde's Byelaws that have not been superseded by Orders look as though they could continue indefinitely, the *Orders* Fylde made under the 1996 Act
blanket order on dog fouling) look as though the will lapse 3 years after October 2014 - (which would be October 2017), and that might be why it is now on the agenda again now.
What the report doesn't say is whether an Order that is due to lapse can be renewed, and to be honest, we're not clear about whether it can or not.
So if they cannot be renewed, then it appears during 2017, that Fylde's *fouling* regulations will cease to have effect (as probably will the orders made by parish councils)
and that might be why Fylde are bringing forward proposals for PSPOs at this time.
It appears to us that the sites regulated by earlier *Byelaws* will remain enforceable, but these are quite limited in scope and extent, and no new Byelaws on dogs may now
The report goes on to explain the constraints on designating land for a PSPO, and notes that the powers available include
- Requiring dogs to be exercised on a lead in certain areas, at certain times or upon request by an Officer
- Excluding dogs from certain areas and/or at certain times, for example children’s play areas or the amenity beach
- Requiring the removal of dog faeces
- Limiting the number of dogs a person can take into an area
It then deals with compliance and outlines the sanctions that may be imposed for contravention of the Order, before moving on to explain that the Working Group....:
"met 3 times with officers representing the service and after careful consideration of the relevant facts and information, agreed the following 12 recommendations would be
reported back to the Operational Management Committee for consideration:"
Sometimes, the unconscious phrasing in a report gives clues as to the thinking and approach of the report's author, and to be honest we don't much like the phrasing used
We think it implies a perspective where "the service" is represented by Council officers, and that elected councillors are simply there to legitimise what the officers say
We spoke earlier of the balance that was needed in the tension between officers and members, and it feels to us as though the balance is too weak on the member side at
In fact, if we didn't know it would bring groans from our readers, we might have said it seems to us as though the tail is wagging the dog on this one.
The 12 Recommendations, (at least nominally of the Working Group) are:
a borough wide PSPO requiring dogs to be kept on leads on all public highways at all times
a borough wide PSPO requiring the removal of dog faeces at all times
a borough wide PSPO excluding dogs from all children’s play areas
a borough wide PSPO limiting the number of dogs under the control of one person to a maximum of 4
a PSPO requiring dogs to be kept on leads at various locations across the borough (Appendix A)
a PSPO excluding dogs at various locations across the borough (Appendix A)
the introduction of a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for breaching a PSPO to the value of £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 7 days
after an introductory, educational period, a zero tolerance approach to be followed in relation to any PSPO made following the consultation
to recommend to full council that existing dog related byelaws are repealed, to avoid conflicting restrictions
to recommend to full council to include a 2017/18 one off budget item of £12,000 to fund a communication campaign and appropriate signage to support of the introduction of
any dog related PSPOs made following the consultation
to approve the purchase and use of body worn CCTV cameras (subject to procedural requirements) by the Dog Enforcement Wardens as a Health and Safety measure to be funded
from existing service budgets
to recommend appropriate officers investigate the use of PSPO to control other ASB issues such as BBQs and public drinking and to make recommendations to the relevant
committees (Tourism and Leisure and Public Protection).
The Working Group does seem to have asked Parish and Town Councils about the list of sites that were proposed. They also consulted other Council departments including Parks,
Coast and Countryside, and Planning.
What they didn't think to do was to involve and consult the public, dog owners, and dog related businesses.
But then the report gets into an area with which we feel most uncomfortable.
We call it the ROBOCOP section.
"21. The Dog Enforcement Wardens (DEWs) are required to approach dog walkers who are failing to demonstrate responsible dog control. A number of these interactions can
become confrontational as some dog walkers resist when they are told they are not following the rules. The DEWs are trained to diffuse these situations or to walk away if they
are at risk, but unfortunately the abuse does sometimes continue. In a recent incident, one of the DEWs was spat on as he walked away after challenging a dog walker who refused
to put his dog on a lead. This was understandably an extremely upsetting and stressful situation for him.
22. A number of other Local Authorities have introduced the use of body worn cameras to assist their enforcement officers. The purpose of using body worn cameras is to:
serve as a deterrent to acts of aggression or verbal and physical abuse
introduce a more imposing recording system to address high levels of anti-social behaviour
help to protect officers at work (for Health and Safety purposes)
capture images close up
allow the officers to maintain the use of their hands and enforcement equipment whilst recording an incident
provide evidence to support internal investigations (complaints), the issuing of a fixed penalty notices or prosecution cases
23. Blackpool Council’s H&S team have confirmed that the addition of body worn cameras has proved a valuable tool in dramatically reducing incidents of abuse towards their
staff by as much as 50%.
24. Five separate instances of verbal abuse towards the DEWs have been severe enough to report through to the H&S team in the past 5 months; excluding the spitting incident;
and many more less abusive issues go unreported as they are just ‘part of the job’.
25. No degree of verbal or physical abuse is acceptable and an independent H&S assessment of the DEWs’ duties has recommended the introduction of body worn cameras to give
the officers legal backing and act as a visual deterrent to further abuse.
26. The working group are supportive of this recommendation and suggest that body worn cameras are introduced regardless of the possible future introduction of PSPOs. The
use of cameras will be subject to specific procedural requirements which will be reported to a future meeting of the Operational Management Committee.
We have a fundamental problem with this approach.
It's yet another example of Fylde changing its role from providing public services to a role of civil enforcement, yet another example of the quote some years ago by Former
Cllr Tim Armit (before he became a councillor) when as Mr Tim Armit, writing about the closure of St Annes Swimming Pool he said....
"What is a council for? Think back to our small villages choosing the elders to look after them, to represent them, to ensure all that the village needed was in place. When
did Fylde borough change from being the people's representative and enabler to, in most people's opinion, the enemy? The people stopping things happening, the people damaging
the very town we want them to represent? Is this right? Is this what a council should be? "
This particular officer report uses a kind of twisted logic that attempts to paint Fylde's enforcement agents as being the 'victims' of the nasty public.
It fails to recognise that if you stop using the carrot and bring out a stick, some people will take exception to being hit with it, and it's quite likely that the person being
hit with it would also find it an "extremely upsetting and stressful situation" before quite possible responding in a strong manner to the person with the stick.
The change that Fylde Council has made to it's approach to dog control was always going to deliver an adverse escalation in reaction from those being beaten with the stick.
The problem here is that Fylde's whole approach to this matter is wrong.
The Council's negligent failure to carry through on the earlier decision of Cabinet has caused the dog control legislation that was in place to be all but abandoned as
resources were directed to other services, and in an effort to regain control, Fylde made the fatal decision to change its approach from welfare to enforcement.
As we saw in the Balkans, the escalation of aggression is rarely a good way of solving problems
Now, Fylde are planning to use not a stick, but a sledgehammer to crack what is really a very small walnut.
Most dog owners don't need Robocop with bodycams (and perhaps next with body armour?) to persuade them of the need to pick up after their animal.
Furthermore, treated with proper respect and courtesy, (as happened at Fylde in the early years of dog control), most dog owners will become persuaded of the need to respect
the needs and concerns of others.
When this persuasion happens, the problem is solved for that individual and the problem reduces.
Incrementally, and over time, the whole problem reduces, (as it did before the abandonment of this approach)
We accept that there will always be what are undoubtedly a small minority of dog owners who will ignore the entreaties to behave reasonably, and such people need sanctions
imposing to change their behaviour.
But these people need approaching and dealing with as *individuals* which is why the bye-laws were so effective, and the collective treatment of everyone within a designated
PSPO area will never be.
We can understand it is more efficient to have a 'Robocop' response.
It's cheaper and easier, and in a narrow way it is effective to implement such a regime, but when the inescapable by-product of this approach is the alienation of large
numbers of responsible dog owners, this 'inhuman' approach actually does more damage than it does good - if for no other reason than the persistent offenders will, at best,
only respond when an enforcement officer is on that particular piece of land on the day and time that the recalcitrant owner is there as well.
For the rest of the time the owner who couldn't care less, or the one who disagrees with the principle of regulating dogs, will continue to behave as they have previously
The report concludes with the usual publicity barrage plans that would precede introduction of the proposed PSPO, and the appendices list the sites affected, giving current
and proposed changes.
At first sight the proposals seem more or less sensible, but when you look deeper, there are a significant number of new and additional controls that are proposed, some of
which don't have a lot of sense to us.
Most of the additional/new restrictions require dogs to be kept on a lead.
Some, such as a proposal to replace the 'dogs on leads' byelaw with an equivalent PSPO are either simply a revenue earning move (byelaws require prosecution in court and do
not permit on the spot fines to be levied and retained by FBC), or it is about lowering the cost of imposing sanctions.
Others such as Granny's Bay are for places that have no restrictions at the present time, but are proposed for 'dogs on leads' restrictions in order to prevent free-roaming
dogs disturbing the birds on the beach. (as though an owner a dog on the lead running with it would not also disturb them)
Some (eg Lytham Green) are proposed to have differential winter and summer prohibitions. If you think about it, this would require possession of a map and calendar to know
which part(s) of the green was affected at what time of year. A daft idea.
Another one that caught our eye, and which may not be adequately explained in the report, concerns 'All adopted highways in Borough.'
Many of the folk who are completing the questionnaire will probably look at that proposal and say, 'Oh yes, it's sensible to have dogs on leads on a busy road, and it's no
change from the present so that's OK.
What some folk may not realise is that it's possible the term 'adopted highway' also includes public (and perhaps even unofficial) footpaths and rights of way. We're not
certain because we haven't found any specific reference in the PSPO legislation and it may be that the Order will need to make the definition of a 'highway' clear.
That said, there is a precedent. Guidance issued with the (admittedly much earlier) 2005 Act says:
"A ‘road’ is defined in section 142 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 as (in England and Wales) ‘any length of highway or of any other road to which the public has
access, and includes bridges over which a road passes.’
This is a wide definition, and includes not only public rights of way, including footpaths, but also ways to which the
public has access by permission of the landowner, rather than by right. It therefore includes roads and footpaths through private estates provided the public has access to
So it's possible for example that folk who are used to letting their dogs run on some of the footpaths and bridleways across the moss at the back of St Annes for example,
might find they are no longer able to do that.
As we said earlier, readers can follow this link to download a copy of the Agenda report from Fylde's 15 November 2016 and the appendix shows the land and proposals in more
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE MEETING?
Well, there were a lot of members of the public there and several wanted to speak in the 'Public Platform' just before the start of the meeting.
Picking up a theme we mentioned earlier, the first speaker said:
"Sensible and responsible dog owners love their dogs and already clean up after them and use leads where
hazards are apparent, we don't want them injured. Irresponsible dog owners will treat the new rules with the same contempt as the previous ones, therefore achieving nothing
other than to alienate the law-abiding majority"
Another speaker said
"I agree with some of these orders. There should be 100% pickup, there should be 'dogs on leads' on highways, and I agree there should be no dogs in
children's play areas. It's common sense and that something we, as responsible dog owners should all agree to.
However, you've put in a lot of things about exclusions and dogs
on leads, and those are the things I have some queries over."
She went on to say some of the 'on leads' powers seem to be about fouling, and that can happen whether a dog is on
or off a lead. The focus should be on requiring it to be cleaned up, not kept on a lead. She also highlighted her disagreement with the proposed new dogs on leads restriction
near King Edward Avenue for what were described as 'wildlife and funding issues'.
She also challenged the proposals to limit the number of dogs under the control of one person to 4, and wanted to know how Fylde had arrived at "this magic number"
it 4 big dogs, 4 small dogs, 4 old dogs, can I walk two dogs on an lead and two freely?" adding that she thought it was about professional dog walkers, and if that was the
case, ".... that should be a separate issue, and I would have thought the Council would have asked professional dog walkers to come and draw up a code of conduct"
The next speaker was, as it happened, a professional dog walker from St Annes and had been doing it for 13 years.
She could see the sense in dealing with professional dog
walkers separately, and she thought there was a bit of a misconception that .....
we just fill a van with dogs and we don't tailor for the individual dog, or their needs.
good control over our dogs, and I think that's an important point to make. I'm a very experienced dog handler and I take my job very seriously, and the local environment, and
local people. We clean up after our dogs, and we're proud of where we live too.
We want a clean beach, we don't want visitors coming and seeing fouling. And also, on the aspect
of fouling, we also are the people who challenge people for not picking up after their dog."
The next speaker wanted specifically to address the number of dogs. He said he owned five dogs and there were "plenty of people who owned 4, 5 and 6 dogs" and Fylde was
going to make his life impossible by saying he could only walk four. "
He said he was insured to walk six dogs, and if an insurance company were happy to take him on quite a
low premium, he thought there must be some recognition that he was capable of doing so. He wanted to see what evidence Fylde had that someone walking four dogs could control
them, but not someone walking five or six.
And that's one of the fundamental problems with this sort of legislation, as Howard Clemmow wrote about ASBOs in our earlier article, these things are not offences is
because it is impossible to define at what level they become an offence.
The final speaker said the orders disproportionately reduced the areas where dogs could be exercised off a lead.
He cited the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 which, he said,
stated that dog owners require to exercise their dogs properly, and he argued that most could not be exercised properly on a lead because dogs walked faster than people and
they need to be able to let off steam. If they can't do that they become stressed and potentially aggressive.
He was concerned that pushing a larger number of dogs into smaller
and smaller areas would be likely to cause more aggression between the dogs as well.
And with a reminder that tourists also bring dogs to this area, and the businesses that depend on visitors would not want to see visitor numbers decline if the area is made
less attractive and popular with dog owners, he brought the Public Platform to a close.
After the preliminaries with approving the minutes and so on, the meeting opened with the PSPO item. The Chairman (Cllr Eaves) wanted to make a few comments before the
officer reported. We've seen him do this before with other 'difficult' items, as a sort of 'taking the wind out of your sails' move. He said:
"Can I just say this is a first step with regards to Public Space Protection Orders. Fylde Borough is the only borough in Lancashire that does not have Public Space
Protection Orders, especially with regard to dog control.
This is an initial proposal, and this has been formulated following letters that have been sent to all parish and town
councils, and using the experience of officers within the Council, to formulate this agenda item.
It is the first part before we can actually go out to consultation, and in
order to produce this report as a starting point, a cross party working group was formed, in order to discuss the letters that were received from Town and Parish Councils, in
order to produce recommendations to go forward for public consultation, which is a legal requirement before any Public Space Protection Orders can be issued, and so with that
opening gambit, can I introduce Kathy Winstanley and Sarah to introduce this item"
Like we said, he aimed to de-wind the sails. It was not wholly convincing to us because (as we have said already), it is councils talking to councils and employees, not to
local dog people.
His emphasis of it being a cross-party group is also a bit disingenuous to us. The working group comprised a majority of 5 Conservatives and 2 independent
councillors. So the recommendations they selected should perhaps be seen in that light.
His statement was also not strictly accurate.
The requirement to consult does not include the public at large.
It *requires* consultation with the Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner, whatever "community representatives" the local authority thinks it appropriate to consult, and
the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area (unless it is Council owned land).
The Council must also notify Lancashire County Council and the parish council for the area proposed to be within the PSPO.
There is no legal requirement For Fylde to undertake a full public consultation, but to its credit, the Operational Management Committee recognised the public concern and
decided to undertake such a consultation - albeit in a form that we think leaves much to be desired.
Subsequent to the meeting we heard gossip that elements within the Conservative group's high command were unhappy with Cllr Eaves for giving ground on this matter and they
intend to press ahead regardless. Whether that's right or not only time will probably tell.
The Officer introduced her report - with no surprises beyond what she had written.
First to speak was Cllr Alan Clayton. He said that as a parish councillor he gets complaints about dog fouling and anti-social behaviour and this was an attempt to address
He recognised concerns about the number of dogs one person could exercise, and the dogs on leads provisions, and he welcomed the consultation that would take
place, with the results going back to the Committee. So he proposed that the Committee go ahead with the recommendations.
At this time, his proposition was not seconded.
The Chairman endorsed his remarks and said they would consult far and wide.
Next to speak was Cllr Frank Andrews from Wrea Green. He began by deploring the need for rules and regulations because the more they had the worse it was, he much preferred
to see a responsible community. But having said that, he said he could see a lot of good in the work that had been done. But, he said, he did have trouble with four dogs,
"too many of my friends have more than four dogs, though how that number is achieved I don't know. I'd like to see that particular line deleted.
The people that run five or
six dogs, or even dog walkers, these are the people that in my opinion are more responsible, not less responsible. I don't see the need for that line, but there is an awful lot
that's good there.
My other concern generally is that dogs have to walk off the lead sometimes. Clearly not on the road, or in children's playgrounds, but it does worry me that
we're turning off lots of the beach and even a little bit at the seaward side of Fairhaven Lake, which is green and ideal for small dogs when you don't want to take your dog on
So I think as we go through this process, we must leave huge areas of the green and the beach open for free roaming of dogs, ie dogs off the lead."
His remarks drew strong applause from the public gallery.
Cllr Eaves added that this was what the consultation process would be about. He said Fylde was not a council that
was anti-dogs, but it was a council where everyone needed to work together to enjoy the wonderful place that we live in.
Cllr Eaves then said Cllr Clayton had a proposed to approve the recommendations, and asked for a seconder.
Cllr Andrews came back and said:
"I'd be very happy here to proceed to the next step, but I really do worry about that one line where it says a maximum of four dogs. I think we'd be wiser to delete that
One other member of the committee (not sure who, but we think it was Cllr Threlfall) said
More applause from the public gallery.
This was quite an unusual event. It is extremely rare to see a Conservative members like Cllr Andrews and Cllr Threlfall speaking out against what had up to that point been
the establishment or party line. It's one of the first times we have seen it happen since the Committee system was introduced, and we absolutely welcome their willingness to
speak out according to conscience and to reflect what they clearly believe to be the wishes of their electorate.
That's exactly how it should be done.
Cllr Threlfall was next to speak. He said:
"I tend to agree with Cllr Andrews, I've been looking at professional dog walking for a number of weeks now, and these people are professionals. They take dogs out for
people who can't walk their own dogs, and these dogs in these families play a big part in their family and are a very precious part of the family, and I've taken time to speak
with these people who have professional dog walkers take their dogs out, and they do a good job, and are professional.
So, I would like to see the four be deleted, so that we
can carry on with further enquiries and things and make the right decision."
Actually, we don't think he did it for the applause, He was not playing to the public gallery. He appeared to us to be exercising a genuinely held conviction.
If our readers contrast the warm ethos of what he said about the importance of dogs to families with the cold and calculating 'Robocop' wording of the officer's report, it
illustrates more clearly than anything we could say the desperately important humanising input that MUST come from elected councillors. It is a really clear indication of the
essential tension we spoke of earlier in the article.
We've had a number of significant disagreements with Cllr Threlfall in the past, and we don't expect that has ended, but on this matter we're very happy to commend and salute his
willingness to stand up for what he thought was correct.
Sensing an uprising and looking a little worried now at the revolt taking place in his committee, the Chairman asked Mrs Winstanley to contribute. She said:
"If I may go back to what I said earlier about what the PSPO may cover, there is a section in there that says 'on the request of an officer' so you can make a blanket PSPO
or you can make a PSPO with certain conditions. It's just a suggestion whether or not in terms of the maximum limit on the number of dogs, if you wanted to consider maybe
adding 'upon the direction of an officer' because I agree that certain people control their dogs a lot better than others, and you may have a person with one dog which is out
of control and another with five dogs that are being kept well under control.
If you add the caveat 'direction by an officer' there is an element of flexibility"
Her rearguard salvage action to retain the provision was entirely understandable. And whilst on the face of it was more reasonable, you have to ask yourself - if that's
what she thought was appropriate, why did she not manage to convince the Working Group who came up with the recommendation for four?
And, of course, the cynic would say that the flexibility she suggested also provides an unwritten flexibility on the part of the Authorised Officer to impose a limit of four
in all instances anyway.
Cllr Richard Fradley said:
"I fully understand why people want to remove that line, but perhaps, alternatively, that line should be kept in, so it can be properly debated and worked out and gone into
some sort of proper agreement.
I mean it is obvious that these people are professionals, and we should use their knowledge and experience more, and I think if we remove that
line, we may get rid of the people that are likely to turn up about professional dog walking.
I think these people are massively experienced, I think they are professionals,
and what we need to do is perhaps, embrace these people, and perhaps empower these people to help police other dog walkers."
You can never be sure of course, but this felt to us like a rather weak attempt to restore the establishment line and deflate support for removing the 'four dog' restriction from what
would become the decision of the committee.
What he said was not logical of course. It is based on the premise that if you don't include a restriction to four dogs, you couldn't discuss the matter with professional
dog walkers when, in our view, the opposite is true. They are much more likely to discuss the matter with the Council in a positive way if the Council starts with an open book
and asks for their views.
Furthermore, his idea that professional dog walkers could become Authorised Officers under the Act (and perhaps be issued with body cameras and training and so-on?) is really
in the realms of the absurd, especially when the matter of professional indemnity insurance is raised, and the prospect of them becoming employees of the Council to resolve
that difficulty is presented as the only solution to that issue.
For a moment, confusion reigned, then, clutching the lifelines that Cllr Fradley and Mrs Winstanley had thrown to him, Cllr Eaves said
"Can I suggest that this evening, the suggestion by Kathy Winstanley with regards to 'Officer Instruction' and perhaps 'Dog Walker Instruction' might be a sort of a halfway
house to go to with regard to numbers of dogs on leads, so that there is some control should there be some problems with dogs off leads."
Sadly, this appears to represent very confused thinking on the Chairman's part.
The matter of contention was not about dogs on leads at all, it is about the maximum number of dogs one person can control either on or off the lead. (We know of shepherds
that can control a flock of four or five dogs working as a pack in the Welsh mountains to round up and gather-in sheep spread far and wide. The control they exercise is by
whistles and the tone of the voice, and it extended for very long distances with no lead in place at all).
So if it is not confused thinking, we think it must be that Cllr Eaves was attempting to sidestep a revolt from within his committee, whilst at the same time recognising
that it would not preclude the imposition of a limit of four dogs by the 'Authorised Officer' if they chose to make it so.
Cllr Eaves called Cllr Clayton to speak again.
He said he recognised the attempt to reach a compromise, but that raised the difficulty that the Warden would have to have a number in mind that would be acceptable or not.
Cllr Clayton thought the original recommendations expressed the concerns that had come to them in comments from other councils, their own officer and agencies, and he wanted to
invite a representative professional dog walker to advise them on what the number should be.
The bit he had not considered here is that if it is left to the discretion of an individual to determine the number, it is impossible for anyone bringing more than one dog
to know whether they would be contravening the order or not.
Furthermore, we suspect that if the flexibility was done properly according to whether the Authorised Officer felt the person could control a specific number of dogs, the
number permitted could differ with different Approved Officers (and possibly depend on how they had slept the night before), with different dogs, and with different people.
This serves simply to highlight the folly of trying to make this sort of thing appear to be 'the law'.
It is wholly impossible for anyone to know they have committed on offence until they have been told they have done so.
It is fundamentally wrong.
Cllr Clayton went on to spoil what he had said up to then (at least in the eyes of the public gallery), he said:
".... the rest of the bullet points I think are fairly acceptable, well, totally acceptable in my opinion"
(shouts and 'No' and cries of "No they're not" from the public gallery prevailed as order was lost)
Cllr Eaves called for order to be restored. It was, as he undertook to hold a public consultation with opportunities for everybody to be involved.
Cllr Clayton was invited to continue. (Bravely we thought). He said obviously people were concerned about getting this right and he fully supports that. The recommendations
seem to be viewed by the public as being set in stone, but it was only the basis for a consultation and rather than starting to tinker with what they had before them they
should consult first, listen carefully to what is said, then reconsider the matter after that.
Cllr Andrews asked to speak again and said:
"I would just like to say that I don't think there is any way I can live with the fourth bullet point. No one has spoken in favour of it. A lot of people have spoken against
it. I think I could agree everything else, but not that fourth bullet point. It shouldn't be there."
More applause from the gallery. Again it was clear he wasn't playing to the gallery, it was a very strongly held view.
At this point the Chairman was (procedurally) in a bit of a quandary. He had a proposition to accept the recommendations made at the start by Cllr Clayton, but it had not
He has a contrary view expressed by Cllr Andrews and Cllr Threlfall, and he could have asked them if they were proposing and seconding a resolution to delete the 'four dog
rule' from the recommendations, and taken a vote on that
But he did not. He chose to recognise Cllr Clayton's original proposition and asked for a seconder. It was then seconded by Cllr Fradley. Cllr Eaves then asked
"Are there any other proposals" (In our view he should have said 'Are there any amendments proposed)
Cllr Andrews said
"Nothing to say really except the fourth bullet point."
Cllr Eaves asked if anyone would second that amendment. Cllr Threlfall did so. (To applause from the public gallery).
Cllr Eaves then (properly) took a vote on the amendment to delete bullet point 4 (regarding the four dog limit) first.
The amendment was defeated. We couldn't see who voted which way, and the minutes don't record this but it likely only two or perhaps three of the seven voted for the
Then the original proposal from Cllr Clayton was put to the vote and approved.
And with that the PSPO item ended with all the recommendations having been approved.
AN ASIDE FROM WYRE
At least Fylde's meeting didn't see the trouble that Wyre had when they considered dog controls, and as we reported in
Snippets of 8 February 2011 where we said the world
and his wife were up in arms about dog poo with the letters pages of local papers are full of it (so to speak).
It became a particularly memorable interlude for one Wyre Councillor as they struggled against popular opinion to bring in new dog controls.
We understand they had about 40 people in the public gallery making their presence felt (and probably irritating some of the councillors) when Wyre's Cllr and Cabinet member
Paul Moon, allegedly threw a dog poo bag containing bread toward the public gallery.
Seemingly it hit a lady (pensioner we understand) though there are other reports that it
landed at her feet. But she didn't know it was filled with bread and thought it was dog poo.
She was, well, not very happy, and complained.
The upshot (got to be careful with the typing there) was that Wyre's Councillor Moon resigned from the position of Street Scene Portfolio Holder on Wyre's Cabinet losing
most of his £10,200 a year salary for being a Cabinet member. We said at the time, perhaps he should have used his loaf instead.
AFTER THE FYLDE MEETING
But Fylde's November decision isn't the end of the matter, because four things of note have already happened.
Firstly, Fylde has initiated a public consultation on its website. Readers can
follow this link to see and comment on the proposals and questions Fylde wants people to
As we said before this is an awful questionnaire, reminiscent of the impossible question 'Have you stopped beating your wife.' But right at the end there is a freeform box
for your own comments to be made.
We had a go at completing the form but we could not do so properly.
That's because the form does not allow people to move to later questions without answering previous pages in sequence. And there wasn't an option to disagree in principle
with on the spot fines at the outset, so we were obliged to disagree with all the proposals (even the ones we did actually agree with) in order to reach the box at the end and
make the comment about our in-principle disagreement.
Like we said, it's not a survey mechanism in which we would have any confidence.
The second thing of significance is that a large group of people who object to the proposals has gathered by word of mouth - and most especially via social media - to
articulate opposition to the proposals. We're not social media users ourselves, but we understand that over 1,000 people have registered their interest.
The third thing is that there has been a sudden clutch of letters in the paper over the holiday period with people complaining about dogs and calling for better regulation.
Such letters do arise from time to time ordinarily, and it's right that their intensity increases from the January to March period when the grass is not being cut and any
fouling that has not been picked up is not dispersed by mowing machinery. Such complaints usually peak in March.
But we got an entirely unsubstantiated feeling that someone might have prompted the letters we saw published, and coupled with the gossip we had heard about the high command
being intent on implementation, we felt quite uncomfortable.. (But perhaps our paranoia is just getting the better of us here :-)
Fourthly, a really interesting note has been appended to the minutes of the meeting. It says:
"Please note that following the meeting confirmation had been received that the land that the football pitch at Park View Playing Field was situated on is owned by Lytham
Town Trust and as such classed as private land. The recommendation in relation to the exclusion of dogs from the football pitch at Park View has been removed from Appendix A."
This is really interesting to us, and needs more consideration.
At Section 59, the Act says:
(1) A local authority may make a public spaces protection order if satisfied on reasonable grounds that two conditions are met.
(2) The first condition is that—
(a) activities carried on in a public place within the authority’s area have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality, or
(b) it is likely that activities will be carried on in a public place within that area and that they will have such an effect.
There are other conditions as well, but we see nothing that prohibits the making of an order on land not in the freehold ownership of the Council, and as far as we can see,
provided the Council notify the landowner (The explanatory notes to the Act say...
"The authority must also consult, as far as reasonably practicable, the owner or occupier of the land in question and inform the county council and any parish or community
So it may be that Fylde could have made the Order on the football area at Park View Road, unless - of course - Lytham Town Trust was opposed to the idea and would not agree
to it. And we have not been told whether that was the case or not.
Equally, there are other lands which Fylde leases from Lytham Town Trust (Lands leased by FBC on long leases, but where the freeholds were given to LTT around the time that
they also acquired Lytham Hall, the aim of this was to provide lands that would help fund the upkeep of the Hall).
We're not certain, but we pretty much have the view that Blackpool Road North Playing Fields, and at least parts of Lytham Green come into this category as well. We think
there may be other lands too.
So if LTT have balked at Fylde using using Park View for new dog control provisions, we're puzzled why the other lands in their control have not
been similarly treated, and we wonder if there is more to come on this aspect.
But mostly what we don't understand, is how Fylde's officers could have made such a glaring and fundamental error.
In days gone by, the Council's Chief Officers and the legal officer would meet each Tuesday morning to consider corporate and other important high level issues affecting
In the week before each Committee cycle, all the draft committee agendas would appear as a review item on the Management Team agenda. Each Management Team member was
expected to have read the draft agenda, (usually before the meeting) and if they spotted anything untoward, they would raise it at the meeting.
The agenda would be 'page
turned' at the meeting and any items of concern would be raised and either corrected or withdrawn or whatever in order to make sure there were no slip ups such as 'Oops that's
not our land!" or cross departmental conflicts for example.
It doesn't seem to be happening now, or this would not have been missed. Maybe it should happen.
We note that, as expected, there is nothing on the next Operational Management Committee agenda of 17 January about dogs, so we have to wait a bit longer for the next
CONCLUSIONS AND OUR OWN TAKE
The second of the protest meetings took place on Sunday 8th January and we went along to have a look for our readers.
We were a bit late getting there, and the main group (organisers told us the event had attracted about 400 people) was already half a mile a head of us at Fairhaven, so by
the time we caught up, most were on their way home. It was all very informal, good natured and well behaved, as were the dogs, but of course, these are the
sensible dog-owning folk.
We did manage to get a few photos and we thought the one below was quite apt for this point in our report, if a bit small to be good pictures of the dogs.
On a winter's day at Fairhaven, the former Commissar's erection stands proud, but also as an increasingly distant memory receding the mist.
"The Spitfire is a reminder of the poignant and hard won freedoms that the people of this country have a right to enjoy, and the UK Flag waved by one of the dog owners is yet another
We simply cannot imagine that the Spitfire pilots who gave their lives to protect our freedom would want to have much to do with on-the-spot
fines and Robocop enforcement.
But that said, we must be honest and say that personally, we're in a bit of a funny position in this matter of dog controls.
We have some 'issues' (as they say these days) with what Fylde is proposing. But we also have an uncommon personal view about the keeping of any animals as pets and,
(rather like the idea of 'owning' other people), we
don't altogether hold with it.
That's not to say we think our view should apply to other folk. We don't. We're mostly quite old fashioned about tolerance, and we don't expect to force our view down the
throats of others any more than we would expect others to require us take on their beliefs unless we wanted to do so.
And perhaps we also ought to consider the broader question that might be: if, (assuming our view about animal 'ownership' was different, and)) we had, say, an elephant or a llama - whether we would have a right to expect the
community at large to fund the provision of land on which we could exercise it?
And if not, we wonder what the logic is that says the situation be different for other animals?
This raises all sorts of fundamental philosophical questions about whether anyone has the right to *own* land or animals or whether both are 'common' to all species on the
planet. Too big a topic (even for a counterbalance article), so we'll leave it hanging...
Instead, we will content ourselves with being able to see Fylde's need to regularise its dog control regulations, but remain fundamentally opposed to the way they changed
their approach from welfare and persuasion to become a 'Robocop' authority, and also opposed to the principle of Fylde using Fixed Penalty Notices instead of using the *proper* way of
enforcing the law, through prosecution in the courts.
If, after the consultation, we don't see much change, and the proposals are implemented, we imagine that the much longer term could see dog owners banding into either
commercial or private member subscription clubs and acquiring land themselves to exercise their animals as they wish. Certainly the legislative direction is driving them in
We expect to produce a follow up article in due course when Fylde next considers this controversial matter.
As a last reminder, Fylde's current survey can be found on
Dated: 9 January 2017