Fylde Council Working Group on Public Space Protection Orders
Note: The minutes and other supporting documentation of the meetings of the Working Group have not been published on the Fylde Council website and were obtained via a Freedom of Information Request.
- Establishment and Composition
- General Comments about the Working Group
- Working Group Meeting 24 January 2017
- Working Group Meeting 23 August 2016
- Working Group Meeting 26 July 2016
- Working Group Meeting 14 July 2016
The first reference that can be found relating to the establishment of PSPOs is in the Agenda and Minutes of the Operational Management Committee 8 March 2016. The Agenda to the meeting can be found HERE and the minutes of the meeting HERE.
The following people were appointed members of the Working Group:
- Councillors: Ben Aitken, Alan Clayton, David Eaves, Cheryl Little, Albert Pounder, Vince Settle
- Council Officers: Allan Oldfield, Kathy Winstanley, Sarah Wilson, Sharon Wadsworth
We have recently become aware of the long history of Fylde Council's ineptitude in dealing with dog controls thanks to the excellent website Counterbalance - a site that has been observing Council activities for a long time and which is highly recommended. Counterbalance has a long and detailed article about the Dog PSPOs from someone interested in the Council's approach and not even particularly sympathetic to some of our objectives. Read the site's account of the meeting on 15 November 2016 in particular HERE.
It is our opinion that the way Fylde Council is handling PSPOs via the Working Group is biased, inept, and lacking in the openness that Fylde Council claims to believe in. Meetings take place behind closed doors with no intention of publishing the minutes. The starting point of Fylde Council seems to have been a decision to implement PSPOs for dog controls then to scratch around and try to find evidence to support them. This is evidenced by the inability of Fylde Council to produce objective evidence relating to any of its proposals. Preference was given by Council Officers to hearsay, anecdotal evidence and extracts apparently taken from Social media websites.
The original set of proposals, which are examined in depth on other pages of this website, was followed up with a biased survey process consisting of loaded questions, and the analysis of the results of the survey as published on the Council website has been produced after discarding inconvenient responses - presumably because responders failed to give "the right answers" to most of the questions and it would have been too embarrassing to admit it. See in particular the minutes and presentation of the meeting held 24 January 2017 below.
Councillors on the Working Group have failed the residents of the Fylde by not challenging or querying the proposals from Council employees. In fact the due diligence that Councillors should perform as part of their responsibilities has been entirely lacking throughout the handling of this matter. We have tried to correct this as far as we can through analysis of information obtained via Freedom of Information requests and publishing it on this website.
Careful perusal of the minutes and presentations from the Working Group will show that it has spent virtually all of its time focused on Fylde Council's obsession with dogs. By the time the Working Group produced its recommendations to the Operational Management Committee meeting on 15 November 2015, the only mention of other types of uses for PSPOs is the final recommendation - which could be interpreted as "We are not interested in this .... someone else can deal with it":
to recommend appropriate officers investigate the use of PSPO to control other ASB issues such as BBQs and public drinking and to make recommendations to the relevant committees (Tourism and Leisure and Public Protection).
There is nothing whatsoever in the recorded minutes and presentations of the Working Group about the potential impact on animal welfare, the daily lives of law-abiding citizens - particularly the elderly and disabled, Fylde businesses depending on visitors, or people whose livelihood is based on dog walking.
The Working Group has completely ignored the sensible advice from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) about how to go about preparing proposals for PSPOs - particularly with respect to consulting those that will be affected or who can offer practical and positive advice and guidance. Prior to action taken by those opposed to the PSPOs, there is no evidence of consultation with the likes of the RSPCA, The Dogs Trust, Local Business representatives, dog walkers, dog trainers, veterinary practitioners, disabled and elderly people. Nobody affected by, or who could positively inform the proposals, were consulted.
The entire approach to dogs and dog owners has been negative despite at least a quarter of the households in The Fylde being dog owners - and the vast majority of these being responsible and honest people. The minutes of meetings and presentations paint a dismal and depressing picture of our area which is totally out of step with reality.
- Nothing is said about the positive aspects of dog ownership, including health benefits, social benefits for people living on their own or the valuable service dog walkers perform in deterring anti-social behaviour by their presence in parks and the beach areas throughout daylight hours.
- Nothing about the positive impact of people visiting the area with their dogs and bringing trade to our hard-pressed shops and cafes.
- Nothing about the positive aspects of professional dog walkers who perform valuable services to those at work and those unable to walk their dogs due to age or disability.
Perhaps one of the saddest things is the total lack of imagination of this Working Group who think that the only way to improve things is to impose restrictions and bans. There are many positive steps that could be taken - and if the Working Group had made an effort to consult people other than Councillors and Council employees they would have received some excellent ideas.
To give just a couple of examples:
Instead of the wholly negative, costly, and apparently ineffective campaign of leafleting people and inviting them to complain about dog mess, why not install more bins - particularly in areas where dogs are exercised such as the stretch of dunes between Fairhaven and the Beach Cafe.
Fylde Council should look at the recommendations of the Green Flag Awards to promote the Kennel Club 'Big Scoop Campaign'. Here is a quote from them:
First impressions are all too important and the site should look inviting. Issues that must be considered are:
The site should be freely accessible to the public.
- Good and safe access
- Equal access for all
Meetings of the PSPO Working Group
Details and analysis of each meeting of which we are aware follows below with the latest at the top.
The minutes of the meeting can be accessed HERE. Detailed information is in the Powerpoint presentation slides that are shown below with our responses.
According to the minutes those present were:
Councillors: Ben Aitken, Alan Clayton, David Eaves (Chairman), Cheryl Little, Albert Pounder, Vince Settle
Officers: Allan Oldfield, Ian Curtis, Kathy Winstanley, Sarah Wilson, Sharon Wadsworth
Here is a summary of the main things that took place at the meeting based on the minutes. The key impacts on dog owners are highlighted.
- The consultation produced 1,996 responses plus detailed responses from the Kennel Club and Dog's Trust.
- It was noted that the comments section of the survey included requests for PSPOs in additional areas. (The Working Group had no appetite for this and declined to consider them further at the present time.)
- Most of the meeting seems to have been occupied by a presentation by Council staff looking at responses to each of the proposed PSPOs - (this is presented and dissected below).
- It was resolved that requests for PSPOs that had come from Town and Parish Councils would be referred back to see whether they are still supported.
- There was a discussion about restrictions at Lytham Green that seems to have been inconclusive.
- It was resolved to speak further with Natural England and the Kennel Club about proposed restrictions related to the Sea Defence project.
- No decision was made about limiting the number of dogs that can be walked and that this would be discussed with representatives of professional dog walkers and the Kennel Club. The Kennel Club had proposed an "accreditation scheme".
- The Legal Officer provided information about challenges to a PSPO (but the minutes do not record what was said). Any decision to repeal byelaws will need to be made by the full Council.
- Recommendations for each PSPO will be drafted, reviewed and finalised and put before a future meeting of the Operational Management Committee after the various meetings and referrals back to Town and Parish Councils have taken place.
As this meeting took place behind closed doors like all of the others, we do not know what was said during the presentation of these slides and can only comment on their content alongside the meeting minutes. We can see no evidence of any significant challenges or due diligence from Councillors in the minutes of the meeting and so have added our own observations based on information and documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests and an independent and audited analysis of the data from the SurveyMonkey consultation exercise.
It is clear from our own analysis of the data that most of the PSPOs proposed by the Council recieved only very limited support from responders to the survey - although Fylde Council has published statements that are at odds with the data - overclaiming support in all but one proposal. This will be explained in detail in our responses to the individual slides.