Controversial plans to ban dogs from beaches?

DOGS could be banned from a number of the borough’s beaches at certain times of the year under sweeping new changes proposed by Larne Council.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2011, which will be brought into force from April 2012, gives local authorities greater enforcement powers to tackle issues such as dog fouling. Using these new powers, the council has announced plans to introduce a number of dog control orders across the borough.

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

The council says the presence of dogs on beaches has been an issue of concern for a number of residents, especially in the summer.

And particularly at the Seaside Award-winning beaches of Ballygally, Browns Bay and Carnlough.

Another problem that the council hopes to tackle with these new powers is the issue of dog fouling. Under the proposed new regime, dog owners who fail to remove dog foul could face higher fixed penalty fines.

The council also plans to introduce fixed penalties for people who take dogs into children’s playparks and playing fields. Under current council byelaws, it is an offence to take a dog into a playpark, but the only option available at present is to prosecute the offender.

The new powers could also give authorised officers the power to require that, when they deem it appropriate, dogs must be put on a lead. It would become an offence if the dog owner did not abide. This particular order could be put in place for the entire borough, except for land owned by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) for the purposes of forestry.

It has also been proposed that dogs should be required to wear a lead at all times when they are in graveyards.

At the latest meeting of the Environment Committee on Monday, councillors were told that these proposals would be advertised by the council to give local people a chance to air their views on the matter. The consultation period will last for 28 days after the advertisement has appeared.

Councillor Winston Fulton welcomed the local authority’s efforts to “overcome the problems caused by dogs” in the borough, but said it was important to “strike the right balance”.

“People have the right to walk their dogs, but we have to ensure that dogs are kept under control and that dog owners clean up after their pets,” he added.

“It is policing these new powers that will be the big problem, as our officers can’t cover the entire area of the borough at once.”

Councillor Maureen Morrow urged the council to consider banning dogs from cemeteries entirely, but Independent member Roy Craig responded: “I don’t think we can exclude dogs from cemeteries, as they are companions for some people. What if someone wants to visit the grave of a loved one and are told they can’t bring their closest companion with them?”

Alderman Roy Beggs suggested that there should be a fenced-off area somewhere in the borough, such as Carnfunnock, where dogs could be allowed to “slip their leads and get a bit of exercise”.