Dogs on beach decision delay

Dog lovers  take to the beach at Weststrand in Portrush on Sunday to protest at Coleraine Borough Council's decision to bann dogs from the beach.MARK JAMIESON.
Dog lovers take to the beach at Weststrand in Portrush on Sunday to protest at Coleraine Borough Council's decision to bann dogs from the beach.MARK JAMIESON.

THE row over Coleraine Borough Council’s new Dog Control Orders looks set to run and run after it was revealed a decision on the consultation probably wouldn’t be made until September.

Director of Environmental Services, Kieran Doherty, told councillors last Tuesday night that the local response to the consultation had been ‘overwhelming’.

He added that because of the numbers of replies and due to the time frame with the summer recess September looked the most likely date for the Council’s decision.

“I have been taken aback with the level of response,” Mr Doherty told councillors.

“The department has received several hundred and it is very time consuming going through them. We might have the results in June, but September is not an impossible scenario.”

Several councillors revealed they too had been inundated with calls regarding the controversial proposals. A protest at the plans attracted hundreds of local dogs owners to West Strand Beach in Portrush last month.

“I’ve received an unprecedented response to this issue,” said Cllr Christine Alexander.

“It seems to me that we are targeting responsible dog owners with these proposals instead of clamping down on irresponsible owners.”

Alderman Norman Hillis welcomed the response from the public.

“This is an unbelievably emotive issue,” he said.

“Council has put these proposals out to consultation to see the reaction and boy has there been a reaction.

“There is a major problem regarding dog fouling in the area and we should be doubling our efforts to hammer any irresponsible dog owners who let this happen.”

Cllr David Barbour asked why the West Bay was chosen for a total ban on dogs.

Mr Doherty said it was to give beach users a choice of where to go.

“Not everyone is a pet owner and not everyone likes dogs so we wanted to give people a choice and make sure that there was at least one beach in the borough which would be dog free throughout the year,” replied Mr Doherty.

Cllr Adrian McQuillan though said he was losing confidence in the council’s senior management team and called for the process to be stopped.

“I’m not happy at this. The Dog Control Orders are coming into force throughout the province, but Stormont didn’t call for dogs to be banned from beaches,” he said.

“The majority of councillors in this chamber have said they are against it so what is the point of carrying this process on when it won’t be approved?”