Dogs must be kept on leads in new Upton Country Park area after 'savage' sheep attacks
Council leader: 'Shame to be extending ban but most people would agree this is absolutely the right thing to do'
Dogs are no longer allowed off the lead in the new section of Upton Country Park after some 'savage' sheep attacks in the area - with a £100 fine for offenders.
Northampton Borough Council's cabinet agreed to extend the public spaces protection order (PSPO) which bans dogs to be off the lead in the park at a meeting on Wednesday (March 3).
A six-week public consultation held in December and January broadly supported the change following the incidents on sheep that graze on the land.
Council leader Jonathan Nunn said: "It is a rotten shame, so many people enjoy that area with their dog, keep it on a lead or at the very least, keep it under control but I know how savage some of these attacks on animals have been, they really have been horrible haven't they?
"So I think most people would agree that this is absolutely the right thing to do."
PSPOs can lawfully ban specific activities from certain public places to stop anti-social behaviour and one already stops off-lead dogs in Upton Country Park.
But the new 127-hectare area, known as 'phase two' that stretches from Upton Mill Farm in the east to Kislingbury, which opened in March last year, was not included.
Of the 243 responses to the consultation. 185, or 76 per cent, were in favour of prohibiting dogs off lead in the 'phase two' area, with 59 against.
The main recurring comments were that some park users found the current signs requesting that dogs are kept on a lead within the new area to be a little confusing and other users wanted the proposed prohibition actually enforced, according to a council officer report.
Signage is in place across the park stating that dogs should remain on leads at all times, but there are no current legal means of enforcing it.
A change to the PSPO would mean breaches of this guidance are subject to a £100 fixed-penalty notice.
Cabinet member for environment Mike Hallam said park rangers and neighbourhood wardens would be tasked with enforcement, with record numbers of visitors to the town's parks and open spaces during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We've had a number of incidents with dogs off leads there and a small minority of people I think not abiding by the rules and having their dogs off leads and unfortunately it's lead to a couple of incidents, one particularly not very pleasant one, with sheep being attacked over there," he said.
"So it's important that we address that and we work on that moving forwards and this brings that work to a conclusion.
"We consulted with all of the neighbouring parish councils and the upshot of that is we should extend that area and have some of our park rangers and neighbourhood wardens enforce those new restrictions in Upton Country Park which will hopefully make it an even more enjoyable visit for the record number of visitors that are going there at the moment."
Councillor Stephen Hibbert said a 'sizable' number of consultation respondents believed dogs should be kept on leads at all times.
"I think at some point in the future we're going to have to look a this from the other end of the stick and determine what areas dogs can run free in rather than what areas dogs have to be on a lead," he added.
Councillor Hallam replied: "There's always going to be different sides to the discussion on this. Really what we're talking about is responsible dog ownership isn't it?
"The vast majority that I see out and about, the vast majority of people are really, really responsible.
"My young daughter is not a particular fan of seeing a dog coming running up to her and most people say, 'sorry,' and we sort of normally react in quite a negative way so it depends who you ask I think - something to work on in the future."