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Hylands Park PSPO gets go-ahead

Hylandspark 105
The green space between the adventure playground and Hylands House. Credit: Aaron Crowe

Preparations for a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) at Hylands Park are underway after Chelmsford City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee voted to go ahead with the plans. The PSPO has been drawn up to help ensure that Hylands feels like a safe space for everyone.

The council will now officially make the order, which will create ‘on the lead’ zones for dogs at around 15% of the historic estate in areas where most families typically visit, the three Hylands car parks and around the Serpentine Lake. The majority of the 574-acre park will remain available for dogs to be exercised off the lead at any time of day if dog walkers wish to do so.

Soft introduction for PSPO

Although the PSPO will be made this week, dog walkers will be given time to get used to the new plans before any enforcement starts. Signs will go up at Hylands in the coming weeks to let visitors know where these different zones are located and printed maps of the PSPO areas will be available at the estate’s information point. Council officers will also visit the park to speak to dog walkers and offer advice before enforcement begins.

This introductory period will last until the start of 2024, after which dog walkers will be expected to abide by the rules set out in the PSPO. The order is not intended to raise money for the council through fines, but to change behaviours to keep people and animals safe.

Reports of dog attacks going up

The PSPO is being introduced at Hylands against a backdrop of more attacks by dangerously out of control dogs, both nationally and in Chelmsford. Complaints to Chelmsford City Council about dog attacks (on both humans and other dogs) were up 36% on the previous 12 months in the year ending 1 July 2023.

National police data also shows a 34% increase in dog attacks causing injury over the last 5 years. Although complaints to the council have come from all over Chelmsford, Hylands Estate was considered a special case for a PSPO 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 due to the perception of the area as a ‘hazard-free’ space with high numbers of families visiting.
  • Hylands is by far the largest green space in Chelmsford. With around 470 acres of parkland available for dogs to be let off the lead, no group would be disproportionately disadvantaged by the plans.

PSPO includes suggestions from consultation

A four-week public consultation on the PSPO took place over the summer and amendments to the original plans have been made following suggestions from dog walkers. The consultation wasn’t a referendum on whether the PSPO was needed, but a chance to shape the plans. The city council’s Cabinet agreed with suggestions put forward that it would be sensible for ‘on the lead’ restrictions between the adventure playground and Hylands House to start only after 9am when there are many more visitors, particularly children, in these areas.

New Hylands PSPO explained

Hylands PSPO Map For City Life
A map of Hylands Estate showing the different zones where restrictions apply

‘On the lead’ zones

The order 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)
  • The front and back lawns of Hylands House, The Stables Courtyard and the Victorian Pleasure Gardens (after 9am)

Formal recognition for areas where dogs are not allowed

Other areas marked on the map in red are where the order formally lists where dogs are already not permitted. Although these are marked as a requirement of the order, this will make little difference to dog walkers as dogs aren’t currently allowed to be there anyway. These include the fenced-off children’s play area, the paddock used by Hawthorn Heavy Horses and the grazing area for cattle.

No more than four dogs per person

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. This will apply throughout Hylands and not just within the ‘on the lead’ zones. Assistance dogs will be exempt from any restrictions laid out in the order.

Cllr Rose Moore, the council’s Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford says there will be plenty of time for people to get used to the new rules.

“A voluntary code of conduct for dog walkers, which includes many of the details laid out in the PSPO, has been in place at Hylands since 2013, but it is frequently ignored. Transforming this ask into a Public Spaces Protection Order will make it much harder to disregard, and will provide spaces for those who do not wish to be approached by dogs off the lead.

The PSPO isn’t being introduced to catch dog walkers out; it’s designed to strike a balance between safety and enjoyment for all the estate’s many visitors. We do understand that it will take a little time for dog walkers to familiarise themselves with the details and no formal enforcement will take place until the beginning of next year unless officers’ advice has clearly gone unheeded.

We expect people to follow the rules, but we won’t be handing out fines for the sake of it. This is about simple changes to behaviour to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring, rather than making money from penalty notices.”

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

Warnings given before fines

Once enforcement begins, the penalty for breaching the PSPO will be a £100 fixed penalty notice or prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court. Informal and formal warnings will also be used where these are more appropriate, for example, where the PSPO has been breached inadvertently and an officer’s advice is accepted and acted upon. This is in accordance with national guidelines for the implementation of Public Spaces Protection Orders.

You can find out more about PSPOs in the Chelmsford district on our website: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/communities/community-safety/public-spaces-protection-orders-pspos/

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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.