Councillors back calls to ban dogs from playing fields at popular park

Councillors have backed a petition calling for a total ban of dogs on the playing pitches at a popular park.

A total of 278 residents signed the petition calling for a ban on dog walkers using Hirst Park playing fields in Ashington.

The fields are well used for young people’s football, but dog fouling issues have seen coaches forced to pick up more than 30 bags full of dog mess before and during games to keep young people safe.

The petition cites a “lack of respect” from dog owners as well as an “unwillingness” from owners to clean up after their pets. It advocates locking the gates to the playing fields to make it inaccessible for dog walkers.

Hirst Park in Ashington.

Despite the public support, Northumberland County Council’s senior countryside and green spaces officer, Neil Dawson, felt there was not enough evidence to support a total ban.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Committee, Mr Dawson explained some of the issues behind a ban and offered alternative suggestions.

He said: “There is already a public spaces protection order in place so dog owners not picking up mess can and will receive penalties.

"A very high level of evidence is needed for a total ban on dogs and there have been objections from dog owners, so a dog ban is not a realistic option.

“We can put in additional and improved signage reminding dog owners of their responsibilities and the policies. It is difficult for dog wardens to act without more evidence.

“We are also planning to host some green dog walkers events, where owners can get a lifetime supply of dog bags.”

But Coun Kenneth Parry, who represents the Hirst ward, argued that the measures did not go far enough.

Coun Parry said: “People want dogs not to be allowed. The area is a fenced off area, and at the perimeter there is a footpath with plenty of space for walking dogs.

“Every time there is a football match, players have to walk the pitch and pick the mess up.

“It is not going to work. You can ban dogs from the beaches, why not the park? I’m not in favour of the recommendation. The gates should be locked.”

Coun Eileen Cartie added that there had been a similar issue in her ward with tennis courts, and the council had introduced a policy that would allow for the banning of dogs from designated sports pitches.

Mr Dawson agreed to look at the issue again and whether a ban would in fact be possible, and come back to the committee with further suggestions at a later date.