A Cornwall Council planning committee has approved plans for a dog walking site on a field on the outskirts of Looe despite some councillors’ concerns about road safety. Looe Town Council had objected to the plans to set up the secure dog exercise business, saying it could be “extremely dangerous”.
Mark and Phillipa Smith had applied for permission to change agricultural land on St Martins Road into a business allowing four dogs to use the secure field at any one session. The site would be managed by the applicants with frequent checks, including any maintenance and grass/hedge cutting, though there would not be an on-site presence.
James Lundy, of Looe Town Council told the meeting of Cornwall Council’s east sub-area planning committee in Bodmin on Monday (August 7) that his council remained “unconvinced any additional entrance and exit points for vehicles onto the already congested St Martins Road is a sensible option. We feel that visibility is poor and we are well aware that St Martin’s Road is the primary highway route in and out of Looe, which is heavily used by local, commercial and tourist traffic.
“It would be extremely dangerous for unfamiliar highway users, as we are all well aware Looe’s average number of residents is approximately 5,200 which during the tourist season swells to at least 20,000.”
He said Looe already had provision for safe dog walking at Kilminorth Woods in West Looe, Wooldown at East Looe and a secure dog walking site near the Pelynt area.
“The proposal is located in an area which is sensitive to water run-off and still has drainage issues. We’ve requested to no avail a drainage impact assessment. We feel that a new car parking area with hard standing would lead to more water run-off on to St Martins Road which is already suffering with this issue and would be exacerbated by the proposal. We have also requested a flood impact assessment and have not received satisfactory information,” added Cllr Lundy, who said Looe Town Council also thought a dog security fence and gate would be out of character with the area.
Cllr Armand Toms, the divisional member for the area, was also against the plan. “Heading into Looe you will not see the people exiting from the site if a bus pulls up to the bus stop on the road near the entrance. This road is a 40mph road which has a major junction. Most of the residents of Looe live in the Barbican area which is one of the main junctions to the town. So I think the entrance to this site is unsafe.
“This land I know has been used for the last few years for sheep. We as a nation only produce enough food until the middle of May and now we’re going to use good quality Grade 3 agricultural land for a dog walking area. The fields around it produce a lot of wheat.”
Cllr Barry Jordan argued that as this site was on the Barbican side where most people in Looe live it would be a safer area for people to walk their dogs rather than drive all the way across Looe to Pelynt.
“There have been a number of accidents on the junction over the years. I wouldn’t say it’s an accident blackspot but I just worry if there’s a bus there and someone comes out there will be an accident,” added Cllr Toms. “If you’ve got such a large area at the Wooldown or Kilminorth Woods why would you pay for such a facility? There’s the cost of living and everything else and people will walk their dogs where it’s free and easy.”
The meeting heard that need and demand wasn’t a consideration as part of the planning application. Councillors were also told it would be hard to refuse the application on the grounds of highways issues as there hadn’t been an objection from the Highways Officer, whose original concerns had been addressed.
Cllr Adrian Parsons said: “This is a sustainable location with regards to there being a bus stop and a pavement outside that runs to the town, and there is road access. The one real issue is the access that I would have concerns with but there’s no opposition from the Highways Officer, so I can’t see any grounds we have to object to this.”
Cllr John Fitter replied: “I find it difficult to believe that a dog will have the satisfaction of a truly beneficial life by being taken to areas like this. I think you’re far better taking your dog for a walk on a lead in the countryside but that’s beside the way. But they haven’t submitted a sufficient business plan so we don’t know what we’re letting ourselves in for. If we’re going to let these farmers turn part of their arable land into dog walking areas, surely they should be made to give us some robust business plan as to how they intend to supervise it, what effect it will have, etc, but it lacks information and I won’t be supporting it.”
Cllr Jane Pascoe said: “With our climate emergency policies are we really encouraging people to drive to walk the dog?”
“It’s heartening as a farmer to hear that the committee wants to see us farmers farm. As a farmer if I’m going to farm it needs to be profitable and more often than not it’s not, which is why we’re seeing a changing landscape,” added Cllr Parsons.
Cllr Loic Rich stressed people with mobility issues may not be able to let their dogs run loose, which prohibits them from going to certain areas and felt this site could be ideal for such dog owners.
The committee approved the plan – seven in favour, two against and no abstentions.