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Dog walkers’ suggestions included in final Hylands PSPO plans

Hylandspark 123
A Public Spaces Protection Order for dog walking has been drawn up to ensure the historic estate feels like a safe place for everyone.

Changes have been made to proposals to create official ‘on the lead’ zones at Hylands Park following feedback from dog walkers. Restrictions within the main ‘on the lead’ area at the historic estate, which stretches between Hylands House and the adventure playground, will now only begin after 9am. Other ‘on the lead’ areas, including all car parks, will remain so at all times.

9am start for main ‘on the lead’ zone

The amendment will give early morning dog walkers the option to let their pets off the lead in this popular area before most families typically visit the estate. Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet agreed with suggestions that it would be sensible for ‘on the lead’ restrictions between the adventure playground and Hylands House to start after 9am when there are many more visitors, particularly children, in this particular area. After 9am, more than 480 acres of the park will remain available without restrictions until the estate closes each night.

Consultation not a referendum on Hylands PSPO

A four-week consultation was held over the summer and many of the 231 responses submitted by the public were from dog walkers, some with strong feelings about the plans. Although respondents were asked if they supported the PSPO in principle, the consultation was not a referendum on whether it should go ahead, but a chance to influence the proposals. This feedback has been used to shape the final version of the order, which will now be considered by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee in October.

Dogs won’t be ‘banned’ from any new areas

Although some comments made in the consultation referred to a ‘ban’ on dogs, in reality, dogs will not be banned from any additional areas of the estate. The PSPO is a legal document, so it must specify all the areas in which dogs (and in some cases, their human owners) are currently not allowed, such as the fenced-off children’s play area, the paddock used by Hawthorn Heavy Horses and the grazing area for cattle at the Widford end of the park.

More dog attacks reported in Chelmsford

Complaints to Chelmsford City Council about both dog-on-human and dog-on-dog attacks have been increasing. There were 78 reports made to the council in the year ending 1 July 2023, up 36% on the previous 12 months. A similar trend can be seen across the country, with national police data showing a 34% rise in dog attacks causing injury over the last 5 years.

Combination of factors led to PSPO at Hylands

Although complaints made in the Chelmsford district are not focused on any one area, Hylands Estate has been put forward for a dog walking PSPO for two main reasons:

  • Firstly, because the risk to young children from out of control dogs in the busy green space between the playground and The Stables Visitor Centre car park is significant. This is because of the high number of family gatherings here and the perception of this area as a hazard-free space where children are given more freedom to roam.
  • Secondly, Hylands is, by some way, the largest of all the green spaces in the district. The 574 acre estate is big enough for some restrictions to be introduced without disadvantaging any particular section of the public. More than 85% of Hylands Park will be available for dogs to be exercised off the lead whenever the park is open.

Cllr Rose Moore, Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford says introducing the PSPO is the right thing to do to balance competing needs and prioritise the safety of all visitors.

“We want all users of Hylands Park to not only be safe but to feel safe. That means we have to strike a balance between the needs and wants of every different group of park users. We cannot ignore the worrying trend of increasing reports of dog attacks, both nationally and in Chelmsford, and it would be irresponsible if the City Council did not take action to reduce the risk of it happening more often here.

“We’re grateful to those who took the time to take part in the consultation and we agree that starting restrictions after 9am in the largest and most popular ‘on the lead’ area is a reasonable suggestion. A PSPO won’t, by itself, stop dog attacks from happening. However, it is an important and proportionate measure that councils can take to lessen the likelihood of problems occurring in areas identified as a higher risk to more vulnerable members of the public.

“If a serious incident caused by an out of control dog were to take place in a busy area of Hylands and we had chosen not to act on this evidence, people would rightly tell us that we had failed in our duty of care to visitors at the estate. Public Space Protection Orders exist to keep people safe in the future, rather than retrospectively protecting them after something serious has happened.”

Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford

PSPO to help everyone enjoy time at Hylands Estate

The Public Spaces Protection Order aims to help everyone enjoy the park, enabling those who don’t want dogs coming up to them to have a safe space and simultaneously providing many hundreds of acres where dogs can be off the lead.

The order, which has the backing of Essex Police and the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, will designate the following areas as ‘on the lead’ zones to help keep visitors and dogs safe:

  • All car parks within Hylands Park
  • The access route from St Mary’s Church, Widford
  • The area immediately surrounding The Serpentine Lake
  • An area between the adventure playground and The Stables Visitor Centre car park (after 9am)
Hylands PSPO Map For City Life

Under the terms of the PSPO, no more than four dogs may be walked by any one individual, in line with RSPCA advice for professional dog walkers. Assistance dogs will be exempt from any restrictions. Paul Brookes, Public Health and Protection Services Manager for the council says there’s a special case for these changes at Hylands.

“The evidence we have is for an increase in dog attacks reported throughout the district and while there is currently no spike in these reports for Hylands, our risk assessment of the estate makes it a higher area of concern for us than some of our other green spaces.

“Hylands is unique amongst our parks in that its location and size mean that dogs are much more likely to be let off the lead for a significant amount of time than in smaller green spaces, which may be closer to hazards such as roads, cycle paths and water features. This perception of relative safety and space also leads to younger children being given more freedom to move around, and for some areas to become very busy at certain times.

“It’s this combination of factors, along with the fact that hundreds of acres can remain available for ‘off the lead’ dog walking that have led us to conclude that it’s reasonable for some of the busiest areas of the estate to become ‘on the lead’ zones. I’m pleased that the PSPO has the support of Essex Police and the Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and no objections were raised by Writtle Parish Council when they considered the plans.”

Paul Brookes, Public Health and Protection Services Manager

PSPO next steps and future enforcement

Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet has now approved the amended proposals and the decision will now be considered by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 19 October.

Find out more about the final version of the PSPO submitted to Cabinet here: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/media/shgn4rm1/71-hylands-pspo.pdf

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Julie Weight
Julie Weight

Julie writes stories and creates videos for Chelmsford City Council. Contact her at julie.weight@chelmsford.gov.uk or on 01245 606984.