Dog beach ban consultation

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A PUBLIC meeting could be held in Ballygally to give local residents an opportunity to air their views on controversial plans to ban dogs from the borough’s beaches.

New laws brought into effect last month as part of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2011 have provided local authorities across Northern Ireland with greater enforcement powers, and Larne Council now intends to introduce a number of dog control orders across the borough.

And in what has proven to be one of the most contentious moves, it has been proposed that Ballygally, Carnlough, Browns Bay and Portmuck beaches will be off limits to dogs between April 1 to September 30 between 10am and 8pm.

As well as the mooted ban on beaches, the council also intends to implement other sweeping reforms, such as introducing fixed penalties for people who take dogs into children’s playparks and playing fields. The new laws could also give authorised officers the power to require that, when they deem it appropriate, dogs must be put on a lead. It has also been proposed that dogs should be required to wear a lead at all times when they are in graveyards.

The dog control orders will not become effective until after a 28-day public consultation has been held. Anyone who is detected committing an offence under the orders would receive a fine of £80, or a reduced amount of £50 if it is paid within a certain time.

Since the Times first reported on these plans back in November, there has been nothing short of a public outcry, with many angry residents voicing their opposition to the proposals - particularly the ban on beaches.

Director of environmental services for Larne council, Philip Thompson, acknowledged that the plans have proven to be unpopular with many residents and said: “Given the strength of feeling against the proposed reforms, particularly over plans to exclude dogs from the beach at Ballygally, it may be appropriate for a meeting to be held in the village on the matter. A time and venue has not yet been finalised for the meeting, but the four-week consultation period will begin when the council places an advertisement in the local press.”

Mr Thompson added that the dog control orders may not come into effect until September, meaning the ban on beaches would not become effective until April, 2013 at the earliest.