Do you walk your dog at Lydiard Park? Or do you have strong views about other people’s dogs, and their antics?
If so, you may be interested in Swindon Council’s latest proposals to restrict dogs at Lydiard Park.
Even if you aren’t particularly bothered about dogs, but care about access to public spaces, and their increasing regulation, you may want to take a closer look at Swindon Council’s proposed Lydiard Park Public Space Protection Order.
If implemented, the proposals would see two restrictions placed on dogs, and their owners.
First, dogs would be excluded from the walled garden and rick yard area. Secondly, during the period 1 April to 30 September, dogs would have to be kept on leads (of less than two metres in length) in the area of the park shown cross-hatched in red on the plan to the left.
The restrictions, if implemented, will not apply to registered assistance dogs.
Swindon Council say the restrictions are necessary so that people can enjoy the most popular areas of the park without the threat of anti-social behaviour. The Council says it has received several complaints about out-of-control dogs, and that the measures “are designed to make sure boisterous and excitable dogs don’t spoil the enjoyment of the park for families and other groups enjoying barbeques, picnics or those playing sports.”
However, not everyone believes that public space protection orders are the correct approach. The Kennel Club and RSPCA both advise caution in their use, whilst civil liberties groups see the orders as another example of the state’s enchroachment on the freedom of individuals to access, and use, public spaces.
Restrictions already apply on where you can take your dog in Lydiard Park, so why make a new order?
Swindon, like a number of other local authorities, possibly sees the orders as a solution to increasing levels of anti-social behaviour. It recently introduced one to the town centre, outlawing certain activities, which controversially included chalking on pavements.
Public Space Protection Orders are made under the Anti Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. In theory, so far as dogs are concerned, they replace the old dog control orders. However, Swindon Borough Council chose not to make any orders under the previous legislation as it did not “want to adopt powers like requiring dogs to be kept on leads” (Cabinet minutes, 22 November, 2011). So the proposed order is a significant change of approach.
It is already open to the Council, as the land owner, to restrict or place conditions on access to Lydiard Park. Dogs are currently not allowed in the children’s play area, playing fields, Lydiard House, the walled garden, cafe and in-door area of the Tea Room. However, the order would effectively criminalise any breach of the restrictions. It would also allow council staff, those authorised by the council, the police and police community support officers to issue fixed penalty fines of £100.
Laws already exist to control and limit dangerous dogs, or behaviour that is irresponsible or a nuisance. However, the order would provide a quick and relatively easy method of enforcement, in much the same way as a fixed penalty parking fine. But is it a proportionate solution for having your dog off the lead in the wrong bit of the park?
Views will vary. However, you can have your say through the on-line survey at Swindon Council’s website. The consultation closes on 5th July 2016.