Responsible and concerned citizens
THE report in last week's Weston Mercury that a gang of dog walkers intends to flout a new law requiring all dogs to be on leads in certain parks, emphasised the truth of that old adage 'do not believe everything you read in the newspapers'.
THE report in last week's Weston Mercury that a 'gang' of dog walkers intends to 'flout' a new 'law' requiring all dogs to be on leads in certain parks, emphasised the truth of that old adage "do not believe everything you read in the newspapers".
The Grove Park protesters are a group of responsible and concerned citizens, who are shocked by North Somerset's largely Conservative council's use of NuLabour legislation to try, yet again, to dictate the minutia of citizens' lives. Councillors and council officials need to be reminded once more that they are our servants, they are not our masters. The whole affair raises serious questions about why, in the future, we should vote for any of the thoughtless politicians who did it. Perhaps we should all consider switching our votes to one of the smaller parties and thereby remind the establishment that is the electorate who is really in charge.
Sadly, North Somerset's present Conservative administration seems to have followed NuLabour's habit of failing to respect their electorate and consult the public and reflect their views properly. They used obscure notices on the web to invite comment, only posting written notices in the parks once the deed was done. The question therefore arises as to whether or not the new control orders are unconstitutional and of no legal effect. Little wonder there is confusion as to who has lawful authority to issue the 'spot fine' penalty notices. It is certainly not the Park Rangers.
Responsible dog walkers already accept the need to 'pick up' behind their pets and only let them off the lead if they are well behaved. Irresponsible owners do not 'pick up' irrespective of whether leads are being used or not. In that sense the ban will achieve nothing worthwhile. Responsible dog owners also accept that they have a duty to give their pets a reasonable opportunity for a fulfilling life.
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Whilst we would allow that there are park management issues that need to be resolved, there is plenty of space in Grove Park where dogs can run free. Accordingly, it is perfectly legitimate for responsible dog walkers to demand unfettered access to local public open space where their dogs can be allowed to chase a ball, fetch a stick or my own dog's favourite game, roll on her back and slide down the hill head first.
This can all be achieved without compromising the competing interests of other users including town council staff, caf� operators and contractors who have themselves been abusing Grove Park by assuming the right to drive motor vehicles on the footpaths and to leave their vehicles wherever they like.
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A few weeks ago a contractor drove a vehicle into a dog. It could just as easily have been a child and from there it is but a short hop to corporate manslaughter.
Accordingly, the time has come for all motor vehicles, that are not actually delivering heavy goods, to be banned from the parks. This includes the vehicles used by the Ranger Service who have taken to driving across the lawns. Similarly, these vehicles should be banned from driving on the promenade and across the beach for the same reasons of public safety and questionable off-road insurance cover.
That is another reason why we want a meeting with Council Leader Nigel Ashton. The outcome of that discussion will soon tell us if the Conservatives really are the caring consultative organisation they want us to believe they are, as they seek our votes, or if because of their present majority in council they have assumed the top down, bullying, "I know best" attitudes that David Cameron recently laid at Gordon Brown's door.
We shall see.