AS ST IVES stands on the brink of a controversial order banning dogs from beaches, a leading councillor has said the town should never have launched a consultation on the issue in the first place.
Members of the town council's environment committee last week voted 5-3 to recommend the summer ban on dogs on the majority of beaches in St Ives and Carbis Bay.
Now a debate that has raged for months – and become both bitter and personal – is set to be decided next Wednesday when the recommendation goes before the full council.
However, the deputy mayor has now told The Cornishman that the council was naive in launching the consultation and would not be able to police or pay for a ban if it did introduce one.
Councillor Colin Nicholls said the consultation – which had more than 900 responses, more than two-thirds against a ban – was a mistake that councillors had found themselves talked into and whose results they were now ignoring.
A ban – replacing current rules that allow dogs on all the area's popular beaches before 8am and after 7pm – now looks a real possibility, ut Mr Nicholls said there were no funds to police it.
"I think it's disappointing for the community," he said.
"The consultation came out against a ban and it looks like the councillors aren't listening.
"We should never have had a consultation. We had no issue [with dogs on beaches].
"Now if we have a ban we can't police it because we don't have the revenue. We can't raise the [council tax] precept. We were naive in taking it on."
His comments are the latest twist in a saga that has seen neighbours at each other's throats and divided opinions in the council chamber.
St Ives resident Mark Noall has found himself at the centre of the storm after he championed dog banning orders for the main beaches in St Ives and Carbis Bay during the peak tourist months.
Mr Noall says St Ives has the best bathing beaches in the country and that holidaymakers have complained to beach managers and the owners of businesses along the sands about dogs fouling and causing a nuisance.
He says the quality of beaches is affected by dogs being allowed on to the sands – especially those beaches that are not wholly tidal, where dog urine and traces of dog faeces are not washed away.
"St Ives invites people to come and spend their summers on these beaches so it's reasonable that those beaches should be as clean and safe as possible," he said.
"Between Porthkidney and Porthmeor there isn't a square inch of sand dogs can't go on every single day of the year. There are dog bans on thousands of beaches in the UK. They're perfectly normal. Families need to feel confident that they're coming to beaches that are clean. This is a big thing and it underpins St Ives's reputation."
However, campaigners St Ives Dog Owners' Group (DOG) say the public consultation shows the vast majority of respondents want to maintain the current system and is urging people to approach their councillors on the matter.
Member Deborah Martin said: "We can't predict what the other councillors are going to say [next week] but we are asking people from Carbis Bay and St Ives to get in contact with their councillors and ask what the point was of being in a consultation if they aren't going to listen to the result.
"A lot of people are very angry. The vast majority are against the ban. The chamber of trade and commerce are against the ban. We've tried to be systematic and logical but it feels like our arguments have been ignored."
Mayor Ron Tulley said he had fought to ensure both sides of the case were heard but admitted that if a ban were imposed it would have long-term financial implications.
"If we enter into our own ban we're responsible for policing it and even if we vote to remove it later, it would remain with us to bear the cost," he said.
"If we do enter into it then for ever more the town council will have to pay."
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