Dogs and bikes back on the agenda

DOG control rules and shared use cycle paths – two of the most contentious issues on Hampstead Heath – are back on the agenda.

On Tuesday, the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee discussed proposals to adopt an overarching responsible dog ownership policy with a single “dog behaviour code”.

Members also agreed to undertake a feasibility study investigating plans to create a short length of shared pedestrian and cycle route on the former ancient staging track from North End Avenue to North End Road.

Heath and Hampstead Society member, Jeremy Wright, said: “As a cyclist having gone up and down North End Way, I know it’s extremely difficult and dangerous. I would like to test this proposal out. I’m confident it would only be used for uphill traffic.”

He said he would like to see his society undertaking a study into the proposal, providing the path would not set a precedent for taking over parts of the Heath for shared use cycle ways, that there are no structural improvements to the path, and that measures are put in place to stop cyclists illegally using the dilapidated track on the other side of the road.

The cycle route, which is proposed by Camden Council, would be part of a wider scheme to provide a cycling route from Jack Straw’s Castle to The Bull and Bush pub.

During the meeting it was agreed to seek approval to proceed with a detailed feasibility from the Heath Management Committee, followed with a report being submitted to the Pedestrian and Cycling Working Group and statutory Heath committees in 2011.

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Speaking about proposed changes to dog ownership rules, Heath Superintendent Simon Lee told the committee: “I would say that responsible dog owners are a key part of our recreational activity. But as with any large group of users there are some with issues over control.

“At this stage we are seeking your views on the principle of trying to reach agreement with the Kennel Club over the policy for dog control.”

The current Dog Control Orders enable local authorities to introduce offences relating to the failure to remove dog faeces, not keeping a dog on a lead, not putting a dog on a lead when told to by an authorised officer, letting a dog enter land from which dogs are excluded and taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land. A consultation in 2007 showed many dog owners in the area opposed a general rule stopping dogs being let off the lead on the Heath.

Heath and Hampstead Society member Michael Hammerson said any future rules or behaviour code should put an emphasis on dealing with dogs that “intimidate people or other animals, or that destroy plants or turf”.