Club seeks town supportfor football pitch dog ban

Date: Friday 12th October 2018

EDEN District Council has been accused of telling “half-truths” in response to an Appleby Football Club petition to have dogs excluded from the town’s pitch.

For many years the club has experienced persistent problems at the King George V playing fields with dog walkers failing to clear up dog waste.

It says children training on the pitch have been left smeared in dog mess after falling over as they play, leaving parents and officials outraged.

Youngsters have also been frightened after instances of free-running dogs jumping at them as they train.

The club pays the council for use of the pitch for its junior and senior sections, but volunteers are forced to inspect the surface before every session and repeatedly have to pick up dog mess that has been left.

Darrell Wilson, Appleby Football Club under-10s coach, has taken up the battle with the council on behalf of the football and squash club committee and as a representative of the club’s junior football section. He says Eden has given out misleading information in response to the club’s concerns.

A sign was erected by Eden Council at the entrance to the field near the football and squash club, stating dogs must be kept on leads, with a £1,000 fine for breaking the rule.

Parents at the club reproduced the sign and displayed it in more prominent places around the pitch and at the main entrance by Broad Close car park.

However, a complaint was made to the district council which resulted in the removal of all the signs. Eden told the club that dogs must be kept on leads only on the perimeter footpath by river, but not on the pitch itself.

It added that no evidence of dog fouling on the playing fields had been provided and dog wardens had found the occurrence of incidents “occasional and isolated”.

Darrell is now petitioning to have a control order made excluding dogs from the pitch, something Eden has granted on other pitches it owns at Castletown and Frenchfield in Penrith.

In response to the request the council stated: “There has been a suggestion made that dogs should be banned from this area; however, government guidance on the matter states that there is a ‘need for those in charge of dogs to have access to areas where they can exercise their dogs without undue restrictions’.”

Darrell has since called the response misleading as he had previously obtained, under a freedom of information request, the guidelines the council must follow in the making of dog control orders.

He says the council’s response omitted words from the Dog Control Orders Regulations 2006 regarding the interests of children: “The authority needs to balance the interest of those in charge of dogs against the interest of those affected by the activities of dogs, bearing in mind the need for people, in particular children, to have access to dog-free areas and areas where dogs are kept under strict control, and the need for those in charge of dogs to have access to areas where they can exercise their dogs without undue restrictions.”

Darrell added: “I feel like they are not giving us the full story. In their statement it is not a true picture. They are using sections of the guidelines and making it misleading.

“As a club we are trying to get the truth from them. If Eden District Council say it’s the law and it cannot be changed I want to see proof because that’s not the case elsewhere.”

The council also previously stated it would not be possible to impose a dog control order excluding dogs from the playing field because it is not an enclosed area. However, the guidance Darrell obtained states orders should not be ruled out for unenclosed land where a special case can be made.

He says the area at Appleby is a special case as it is the only pitch children can use in the town and there are a number of other areas available for dogs to be exercised.

A petition which has been started at the club has already received strong support not just from members of the club but from the wider community, including some dog owners.

The Eden district councillor for Appleby, Karen Greenwood, is hoping to arrange a meeting between council officials and interested parties in a bid to resolve the problem.