Hemel man calls for clarity over public space protection orders after being fined £80 while walking his dog

Dacorum Borough Council introduced Enviro-crime officers earlier this month

Monday, 29th November 2021, 11:37 am

A man from Hemel Hempstead who was fined £80 after taking his dog for a walk has called on Dacorum Borough Council to make the public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) clearer.

Colin Davidge, 68, who regularly walks his dogs - two dachshund - in Gadebridge Park was fined after one of his dogs entered an area in the park that dogs are excluded from.

Colin claims he was unaware of the fines for the exclusion of dogs in specified areas.

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Colin regularly walks dachshund in Gadebridge Park

He says his dog ran off towards the trees near the café and returned when he called him, and then he was issued an £80 fixed penalty notice by an Enviro-crime officer.

Colin said: "I was shocked, I couldn't believe I had been given an £80 fine, no warning about it, just the fine.

"He asked me for my ID which I refused to give him because I had no idea who he was.

"I think he should have given me a warning and just explained the rules to me, rather than giving me an £80 fine.

The area of Gadebridge Park that Colin's dog ran on

"I think what the council are doing at the park is great, it has improved a lot over the years and more and more people are using it which is great.

"But this has put me off going there, I couldn't sleep last night because of all the stress."

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They have been delegated the powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices of £80 for littering and for breaches of the borough’s town centre, dog control and alcohol PSPOs. Should the FPN not be paid, the offender could face prosecution and a larger fine.

The public spaces protection orders section of Dacorum Borough Council has a list of the current orders in force in Dacorum.

In relation to exclusion of dogs in specified areas, it says: "A person in charge of a dog in a public space within the borough of Dacorum Borough Council is prohibited from allowing the dog to enter the 'Dog Exclusion Zones' which include enclosed children's play areas, adventure playgrounds and splash parks. Dogs are also not permitted within 3 metres of any enclosed play equipment."

Colin added: "There needs to be more awareness, apparently these rules came into force on November 1, but I have not heard of them.

"He said leaflets were handed out at the park, I regularly go to the park and I was not given a leaflet.

"There should be big, clear signs at the park entrances.

"I did notice there was a sign saying by-laws, but the writing was small and hard for me to read.

"There needs to be more awareness and also, more clarity of what the boundaries are.

"They should consider putting a fence up to make it clear for everyone.

"The guy ended up calling the police and they came down, they were really pleasant, just doing their job, but it was a bit ridiculous.

"The ironic thing is that there was a woman sitting at the café, with her dog on the table and he didn't go and speak to her.

"Quite a few people came over when he was talking to me, and they also had no idea about this rule, or where the boundary is.

"£80 is a lot of money, and you have 14 days to pay it, I don't know what I'm going to do, that's half my pension.

"I think what the council is doing good, but this fine is ridiculous, I think they need to give warnings to people first, and also raise awareness of the rules and clarity over the boundary in the park."

A spokesperson for Dacorum Borough Council said: "From 1 November 2021, our partners District Enforcement, a company that specialise in enviro-crime enforcement, have been delegated the powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of £80 should they witness people littering, failing to clean up after their dog or breaching our PSPOs.

"This is in line with our commitment to a firmer approach to making our borough a cleaner and safer place to live, work and visit.

"This has been widely communicated through educational events, the press, social media, our weekly Dacorum Life email, posters and leaflets prior to commencement and is ongoing.

"For the vast majority, this enforcement action has been well received.

"District Enforcement provides experienced and professional enviro-crime officers who work under the direction and on behalf of ourselves.

"The officers follow current legislative guidelines and our enforcement policy.

"District’s officers receive intensive training and ongoing professional development to maintain high standards.

"They will also wear body cameras to capture interaction between officers and members of the public.

"Any complaints against the officers conduct should be made to in writing to [email protected] and will be handled in line with established procedures.

"Although we do not comment on specific cases, as a public open space, Gadebridge Park has some restrictions for exercising dogs and is included in the Public Space Protection Order for Dog Control Areas which came into force in July 2019.

"The park is well signposted to inform dog owners and non-dog owners alike what is expected in the area when it comes to exercising dogs.

"As a reminder to residents and visitors;

"All across the Borough, the Dog Control Public Spaces Protection Order includes;

i) Failure to remove your dog’s faeces

ii) Failing to remove your dog’s faeces at the request of an authorised officer

iii) Failing to carry a bag or other means to clean up after your dog

iv) Failing to put your dog on a lead at the request of an authorised officer

v) Failure to keep your dog out of an enclosed play area or keep it three metres away from any unenclosed play equipment, to include adventure playgrounds and splash parks.

Colin added: "I have received a lot of support since Wednesday, people checking that I'm okay, and also saying that they were not aware of these fines.

"As much as the council say they have made the public aware, it seems a lot of people are still in the dark about it."