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Town split as councillors vote for beach prohibition

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: November 15, 2012

  • Rebecca Lewis and her Patterdale terrier Coco, with fellow dog lovers Deborah Martin and Malcolm Prosser outside the Guildhall in St Ives prior to the council meeting.

  • Opponents and supporters of the ban packed the Guildhall. www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/buyaphoto

  • Westcountry News film protesters and supporters at the meeting in the Guildhall.

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ST IVES Town Council says it is bracing itself for continued challenges from dog-owners after voting to completely ban dogs from the town's main bathing beaches during the summer.

The proposed ban of dogs from Porthmeor, Porthminster and Porthgwidden from before Easter until October was passed by ten votes to five at an extraordinary council meeting last week.

The ban comes despite the council getting nearly 1,000 responses to a consultation on the idea – with more than two thirds against a ban.

But councillors at Wednesday's meeting said they had always been clear it was not about how many people voted for or against.

Councillor Andrew Mitchell, who said he wanted the ban to protect the Blue Flag status of the resort's beaches, told a packed meeting in the Guildhall: "A consultation is not a referendum. The ban was in place for 28 years before Penwith District Council changed it (in 2007). I think the proposal is a fair way forward."

The debate has dramatically split St Ives.

Councillor Harry Isaacs even claimed that a bag of dog mess was left on his doorstep.

Councillor Tim Andrewes, who chairs the environment committee that proposed the ban, said: "We do think there is enough evidence about dog nuisance and dog fouling. I saw more than 60 references to badly controlled dogs on beaches (in the consultation responses).

"Our beaches are relatively compact and cramped compared to other towns.

"The (environment) committee feels there is a conflict between some visitors and we can't accommodate them all."

Voting against the ban, Councillor Yvonne Watson said: "I feel we have had the consultation and we've thrown it out ... we just ignored what it said."

Deputy mayor Colin Nicholls said: "I spoke to someone who told me they feel like a criminal in their own town for walking their dog on the beach."

Mayor of St Ives Ron Tulley said: "In 2009 I knocked on hundreds of doors in the election campaign and not one person mentioned a problem with dogs on beaches.

"A year ago I had a meeting with businesses including the beach managers.

"They talked about parking and many other things but not dogs.

"Ninety seven per cent of people in a survey of holidaymakers cited our beaches as good.

"B&B owners say it is not an issue that is raised.

"We've got some of the best beaches in the country. The fact that dogs are allowed is an asset. The current arrangement is fair – people can use 8am-7pm for swimming and sunbathing."

After banning dogs from Porthmeor, Porthgwidden and Porthminster, councillors voted to keep Harbour Beach open to dogs before 8am and after 7pm in the summer, and gave dog-owners three hours in the morning – between 5am and 8am – on Carbis Bay Beach.

Areas of beach at Lambeth Walk and Bamaluz will be kept open for dogs all year round and the council will investigate removing boulders and renovating steps to make them more accessible.

After the meeting, campaigner Mark Noall said: "This is in the best interests of people coming to St Ives. Seasonal exclusion orders ensure they are going to be as clean and safe as possible."

St Ives Dog Owners' Group (DOG), however, says it will continue its fight.

Barbara Nolan said St Ives DOG had already had cash pledges for a potential legal bid and is keen to find a dog-friendly lawyer to take on the case.

Mr Tulley now has to oversee enforcement of the ban.

He said: "First we've got to go through a legal process, because the current dog control orders are Cornwall Council's, it will have to rescind them before we put ours in place.

"Then we have to have an enforcement system in place. In the next month we will be drawing up the budget for the next financial year so we will have to look at enforcement and put that in the budget."

One councillor suggested the ban might cost the council £20,000 but Mr Tulley said he expected it to be considerably less, especially if beach cleaners could be trained to enforce it.

Another option was looking at combined enforcement for littering, parking and dog controls.

DOG is holding a public meeting on Tuesday at 7pm in the St Ives Society of Artists for anyone concerned about the new dog-control orders.

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