The Director of Open Spaces introduced a report on the introduction of Dog Control Orders (DCOs) at Burnham Beeches. She noted that it demonstrated the level of consultation that had been undertaken and that members of the Committee should keep in mind that DCOs, should they be introduced on the Heath, would be different in character to those trialled at Burnham Beeches. She added that the Epping Forest & Commons Committee, which was the Management Committee overseeing the trial, had deferred the report until its meeting in March 2014 to allow time for a small sub-group to consider a late representation concerning the trial received from the Kennel Club. She concluded by noting that, whilst current statutory DCOs were due to finish in the near future, the Anti -Social Behaviour Bill was currently in the House of Lords and would be returning the Commons shortly, it was expected that secondary authority status could be maintained for the City of London.
Richard Sumray said that it was difficult to ascertain from the report what the underlying principles governing DCOs were, and that it would be useful to have this addressed in the version of the report that came back before the Committee.
Colin Gregory noted that there were some instances where the report did not appear to correlate with the evidence in the visitor survey. He hoped that if and when DCOs were trialled on the Heath they would be designed with its unique character in mind.
In response to a query from Ian Hammerson over why the report did not explicitly deal with commercial dog walkers, the Superintendent replied that this arose from the fact that commercial dog walkers could not currently be licensed. Ian Hammerson went on to express concern at the level of criticism directed at the trial by the Kennel Club and expressed the hope that the Club’s influence would not be given undue weight to the City of London’s final decision.
In response to concerns expressed by Mary Port that the issue of dogs on the Heath had been ongoing since at least 2004, the Director and the Superintendent replied that the City of London was governed by available statutory powers and by staff resources – for example the power for the City of London to implement DCOs on the Heath through secondary authority status had only been available since May 2013.
Susan Nettleton noted that the advice on the City Commons website seemed more appropriate, in that it appeared more ‘light touch’ in character.
Jeremy Wright stated that he thought it was helpful that a site such as Burnham Beeches was the location of the trial. He expressed the opinion that if and when DCOs reached the Heath, dogs-on-leads areas should be kept to a minimum.
The Superintendent commented that it was important to keep in mind that dogs could also be dealt with using Heath byelaws, and that two cases were currently being dealt with in this way. He commented that it was likely DCOs on the Heath would cover areas such as play areas and cafes; that there would be a ‘pick-up’ policy across the Heath; and dogs would have to be leashed at the request of Heath staff. He noted that DCOs were in place on land owned by Camden. In response to a further question from Jeremy Wright, the Superintendent replied that DCOs were likely to be trialled upon the Heath over the next 12 months to two years.