Harlequins Playing Fields is one of the Council-leased areas with a dog ban in place. Credit: Jeremy Sparkes.

Dog walkers fear transfer of green spaces could lead to bans

A council money-saving suggestion has highlighted a rift between pet owners and players of sport

DOG walkers are concerned that Cardiff council’s suggestion to lease green spaces to sports clubs could lead to their dogs being banned.

Pet owner Nicola Berry, from Roath, is worried that the move would be “catastrophic” if green spaces were run by sports clubs, which could apply for dogs to be excluded.

Clubs across Cardiff have complained that dog mess poses a serious health risk for players and can lead to serious illness. If they were leaseholders they could put pressure on Cardiff council to ban dogs from specific pitches.

The idea to lease the green spaces is part of the council’s 2023/2024 budget proposals to help make up a £23 million budget gap.

Ms Berry said: “Areas marked as sports pitches take up the majority of our green spaces. They aren’t just for sports matches to be played. The whole community should be able to use green spaces for numerous activities, such as socialising, picnicking and dog exercising.”

The owner of a border collie, Ms Berry is worried for the future of dog walking in her area.

“You can bet that the first thing sports club will do if given ownership is to ban dogs. This will cause great stress for dogs and owners in the community,” she said.

“Many will have to travel by car outside of the city to find places where their dogs are not banned. Everyone has a right to use their local green spaces.”

Concerned dog owner Jeremy Sparkes.

Pen-y-lan resident Jeremy Sparkes is also concerned about what would happen if the council leases fields to sports clubs.

“The problem with area transfers is that it creates a democratic deficit. There is no duty for the leaseholder to protect the land and they have no duty for public care.

“The council is not doing anything illegal in these transfers, but it does harm public green spaces,” said Mr Sparkes.

In January, Cardiff residents were given the opportunity to have their say on the council’s budget proposal.

Mr Sparkes, a charity worker, said: “The council put the asset transfer clause in the budget proposal for people to have their say on, but did not explain it.

“If you explained to people what would really happen, they would not be happy.”

However, Cardiff council said: “There is no dog ban on council pitches and only the council can introduce a ban on council-owned or council-leased land.

“A formal ban prohibiting dogs from any council-owned land would require the permission of the council.”

Dog owner Mr Sparkes is concerned that the council may not stick to this.

“Look what happened with the Harlequins Playing Fields. People didn’t know they couldn’t take their dogs to the fields until one day a sign was put up. Metal fences just appeared and public access gates were installed. If it is council-owned land, why is there a dog ban?”

The Harlequins pitches on Minister Road have been leased by the council to St Peters RFC for many years and dogs are banned there.

Cardiff Council said: “Under the historic terms of the lease, which are not reflective of the terms currently used across the city for other arrangements of this type, the club have a covenant not to permit any domestic animals.”

About 600 children and parents use the fields each week, and St Peter’s Primary School uses them as its outdoor exercise area.

St Peter’s RFC said the ban was “to protect the children and adults that play and train on the grounds each week”.

Cardiff Council said the issues faced by St Peter’s were due to a minority of irresponsible dog owners not picking up after their pets.

Other sports fields in Cardiff, without dog bans, have repeatedly faced issues with dog faeces. Dog fouling can lead to infections and serious illness.

Mr Sparkes said: “I know that the problem of dog mess not being picked up needs to be tackled. But why should everybody get punished for this? What if this happens again with a new lease?”

Metal fencing and signs banning dogs at Harlequins Playing Fields. Credit: Jeremy Sparkes.

A council spokesperson said: “The council is aware of the concerns raised by dog owners around the Harlequin ban and will continue to engage with the club and the community with a view to finding a solution that works for all concerned.”

No decision has been made on whether council-owned green spaces in Cardiff will be transferred to sports clubs, but dog walkers in the area continue to fight.

“There is no doubt that the council has a confirmed intention to take away our green spaces. We must make our voices heard,” said Mr Sparkes.