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Dog Public Space Protection Order: A Statement to NFDC Council Cabinet

We add our suggestions for a possible Dog Public Space Protection Orders to our broad support for the two proposed New Forest District Council PSPOs to stop inappropriate interaction feeding of Forest Ponies, and banning fires and BBQs on the Forest.  This statement was given by our Trustee / Council member, Brian Tarnoff in the Public Participation section of the NFDC Cabinet meeting on 2nd November 2022.  Here we include the Endnotes separately shared with Cabinet Members.

This is part of our series on PSPOs.  Other articles include:
Our report on the NFDC PSPOs going forward to consultation on fires/barbecues and feeding/petting ponies.

How Our Recommendations for Dog PSPO fit with New Forest Dog Walking Code, and Kennel Club Guidance (forthcoming)

Dog PSPO

We commend the council for considering Public Space Protection Orders to bring forward measures to address inappropriate interaction with Forest livestock, and banning the use of barbecues and open flames on the Crown Lands.  However, positive control of dogs is a priority widely suggested by the National Park, Forestry England[i] and the Verderers [ii].

East Hampshire District Council successfully brought out a PSPO for controls on dogs in November 2021. [iii]  Similar rules for the New Forest could be mandated which would be entirely consistent with the New Forest National Park’s Dog Walking Code [iv] which is supported by all stakeholders in the New Forest Dogs Forum, including New Forest Dog Owners Group.

Such an order may include:

  • Leads to be mandatory:
    • When their use is requested by any staff of the relevant land managers, including rangers, keepers, agisters, etc. [consistent with FE byelaw 5.xiv.]
    • In areas designated by the land managers of the Crown Lands, adjacent commons or reserves, primarily during ground nesting bird season, but for any other reasonable management purpose intended to reduce disturbance to wildlife or commoner’s stock.
    • Along all stretches of the England Coast Path[v] that are directly adjacent or include within their coastal margin either fields containing livestock, or sites of importance to nature conservation (including SSSI, and/or any areas exempted from coastal margin by Natural England).
  • Out of control dogs worrying/chasing/attacking livestock.
  • Persistent dog fouling of car parks and paths.
  • Littering, including leaving bagged faeces.

The district council should not treat this as a political hot potato.   There is nothing here not already agreed to by the key stakeholders.  While it is possible to roll out PSPO’s separately, you would address an arguably more prevalent set of issues in a more timely fashion, and save on time / expense / effort of separate consultations.

I myself am a dog owner who enjoys the privilege of exercising our dogs under close control on the Forest.  I also represent Friends of the New Forest, a conservation organization, on the New Forest Dogs Forum (as well as the Recreation Management Strategy Advisory Group).  As a responsible dog owner I would like to see measures rolled out that would further positive education.  The Forest is an important remaining bastion for wildlife, and a working forest for commoning. By introducing consequences we may get the attention of those who take our Forest for granted.


ENDNOTES:

[i] From the Forestry Commission Byelaws:

Acts Prohibited on the Lands of the Commissioners

  1. No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners:-
    xii. permit any animal in his charge to be out of control;
    xiv. permit a dog for which he is responsible to disturb, worry or chase any bird or animal or, on being requested by an officer of the Commissioners, fail to keep the dog on a leash;

https://www.forestryengland.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Forestry%20Commission_Byelaws.pdf

[ii] Verderers Minutes Jan 2021 page 12:

DOGS-ON-LEADS
As with many other issues which are damaging to the Forest, enforcing a dogs-on-leads policy would be extremely difficult. Byelaws are an unwieldy and expensive means of enforcing the law and an alternative is badly needed in the Forest. The Official Verderer suggested it would be best to wait for a legally enforceable solution to verge parking to be identified, as a similar solution may be possible to try to reduce the impact of other undesirable activities on the Forest – out of control dogs being one. Meanwhile, the Deputy Surveyor said he will investigate Public Space Protection Orders again to see if there is any way they can be used.

https://www.verderers.org.uk/app/uploads/2021/02/Verderers-Court-Minutes-January-2021.pdf

 

[iii] East Hampshire District Council’s PSPO :

  • requires dog owners in the borough to clean up after their dogs and dispose of the waste responsibly.
  • exclusion of dogs from enclosed children’s play areas.
  • an offence not to put a dog on a lead when instructed to by an officer authorised by the council for that purpose.
  • enables officers to issue fixed penalty notices if a dog owner is not adhering to these rules.

https://www.easthants.gov.uk/dogs-east-hampshire

https://www.easthants.gov.uk/public-space-protection-order-dogs-pdf-5-mb

 

[iv] New Forest National Park’s Dog Walking Code:

Stay safe and respect the environment:

  • Carry a lead for each dog in your care.
  • All dogs must wear collars with ID tags with the owner’s name and address.
  • Park only in designated car parks, not on a verge or in a gateway.
  • Keep dogs on leads in and around car parks and alongside roads.
  • Do not allow your dog to chase or attack livestock, deer or any other wildlife.
  • Keep your distance from grazing animals, especially mothers and their young.
  • Release your dog if threatened or chased by cattle, ponies or other animals to get to safety separately.
  • Dogs must always be under effective control when on a public right of way (for example through farmland); keep them on the path and do not allow them to stray onto adjacent land.
  • Keep your dog to the main tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (usually March – July).
  • Throughout the year, avoid disturbing coastal birds by exercising your dogs away from them.
  • Keep well away from any work taking place such as forestry and pony round-ups, and observe warning signage.
  • Pick up after your dog; put bagged dog poo in a dog waste bin or litter bin, or take it home.

Be considerate to other forest users

  • Always keep all dogs under effective control; if you cannot reliably and quickly call your dog back to you and away from people or other dogs, please keep it on a lead.
  • Keep your dog from jumping up at or approaching other people, especially children, horse riders and cyclists and prevent excessive barking.
  • Keep dogs away from picnics.
  • Show respect for other dogs (especially those displaying yellow as this indicates they need space); if an approaching dog is on a lead, put yours on a lead too.
  • Consider moving aside to let other walkers, cyclists and horse riders past.

https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/things-to-do/walking/dog-walking/dog-walking-code/

 

[v] England Coast Path – Issues relating to Access For Dog Walkers:

There are key issues surrounding the England Coast Path for the Coast of the New Forest.  The scheme inadvertently creates a combination of factors which would allow new, unwelcome access by dogs to protected habitats, and fields used for livestock, including back up land for commoners animals.  This is due to the way in which “spreading room” referred to as “coastal margin” is defined, the way the Ordnance Survey intends to show the land as access land, and Natural England’s uneven guidance and proposals for the New Forest route.

As defined Coastal Margin creates Access Land for the entire seaward side of the Route to the Waters edge.  Where the route is relatively close to the water, this is less of a problem.  However coastal habitats which need to be avoided send the Route inland, and are therefore automatically included in Coastal Margin. This was not defined in Primary Legislation, but as a statutory instrument.  It was not mooted within the consultation on 2009 Act, presumably bringing forward the spreading limitations of the CROW Act 2000.  The 2010 order was discussed for 20 minutes by 17 MPs in Delegated Legislation Committee, and in Lords Grand Committee in 3 hour meeting with 5 other items.  The order has no provisos for the scenario where Coastal Land is Excluded by Natural England, leaving its definition impracticable.

Highcliffe to Calshot route potentially creates @3,500 acres of access land on protected habitats.  This includes an Area of Special Protection which even the landowner may not enter without Natural England permission (Needs Ore Point, Gull Island and Warren Shore east of Gravelly House are given special levels of legal protection being subject to an Area of Special Protection order in accordance with Section 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)). This order makes it an offence to enter this area and to disturb birds. Entry, except by permit, is prevented to Warren Shore and Needs Ore (1 March-31 July) and to Gull Island (at all times of year).

Natural England have the power to Exclude such areas of the coast from Coastal Margin.  However, the Ordnance Survey have decided to publish the route, and to display all potential access land under a “Magenta Wash”, regardless of whether the land has been excepted or excluded.  They’ve suggested that their printed maps will include a very small print caveat that their “depiction of access does not imply or express warranty as to its accuracy or completeness”.  Given that their data is used by both their own and 3rd Party mapping apps, which will not show this caveat, this policy is useless, and undermining to positive control and messaging about the route.  It is estimated that 75% of the New Forest’s coastal margin will be excepted or excluded land, but would be shown as access land.

Natural England’s proposals for the Highcliffe to Calshot are inconsistent with their own guidance on dog controls.  Only 2 stretches have Dogs on Lead Restrictions for habitat protection, for the rest of the route dogs are only required to be under close control off lead.  The lack of livestock based restrictions ignores NE Coastal Access Scheme Guidance:  2.4.6 “under Part 1 of CROW, a person with a dog must keep it on a short lead in the vicinity of livestock”  And Excepted Land status of  “land covered by pens in use for the temporary detention of livestock” has not been applied consistently along the route.  Unfortunately the Natural England guidance for the Coastal Path says that the route be made to the “least restrictive option”, which places the needs of walkers above conservation.   This invention in the guidance is not mandated in legislation, and within a National Park flies in the face of the Sandford Principle which is enshrined in law.

For the entirety of the New Forest portions of the England Coast Path dogs should be on lead for all sections adjacent to:

  • Protected Habitat (whether or not Excluded)
  • Land in use for Livestock Management
  • Coastal Margin leading to either

Potential Impact on Features of Nature Conservation Importance of increased public access to the coast

  • Damaging levels of trampling on vegetated shingle habitats, and adjacent saltmarsh, with erosion of woodland ground flora.
  • Increased levels of disturbance would have adverse impacts on breeding waders and other ground nesting birds including nesting Ringed plover, Redshank, Lapwing and Avocet.
  • Avocet and other waders and wildfowl nesting on lagoons inland of the coast would be vulnerable to disturbance, in particular from dogs.
  • Impacts on nesting Ringed plover would have an adverse effect on the Solent and Southampton Water SPA & Ramsar Site for which this is a qualifying species.
  • Wildfowl & waders feeding and breeding on grazing marshes, lagoons and improved grassland fields inland of the coast would be very vulnerable to disturbance from public access.

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