Saturday 17 August 2019

Dogs and horses issues lead to beach debate

Bettystown proposalsto go on public display

Cars on the beach at Bettystown
Cars on the beach at Bettystown

Hubert Murphy

Meath County Council's proposals to amend the foreshore byelaws on Bettystown beach are to go on public display shortly, after receiving another controversial airing at last week's area meeting in Duleek.

The council is proposing that dogs are kept on leads at all times while horses will be banned from the vicinity of the Nanny estuary from September - March due to habitat laws protecting wintering birds. They will be excluded from an area of the sand dunes, again due to conservation.

The two most debated items are just part of 29 proposals being undertaken as part of a €2m upgrade of the beach area.

It is also being suggested cars be banned - but this will only happen when appropriate car parking beside the beach is secured, sometime in the future.

The latest draft of proposals will now go out to the public for viewing before going to the council for approval.

When the plans were revealed some months, there was uproar.

Council officials remarked, 'dogs are welcome on the beach at all times, as long as they are on a lead.

'Horses are welcome on the beach between 5am and 11am. We are obliged under SPA laws to prevent horses exercising in the area of the Nanny estuary between Sept-March. They can use the rest of the beach, excluding an area of the sand dunes.'

However, horse drawn carts will be banned after concerns were expressed about them.

Cllr Sharon Tolan said she had 'serious concerns' about dogs not being allowed off lead. She said the beach was very quiet in the mornings and dogs should be allowed to run around. She said if the current byelaws were implemented, there would not be a problem.

Cllr Stephen McKee felt that horses and dogs should be treated the same. 'I love to see dogs running on the beach. but it shouldn't happen on busy days. There should be a time restriction,' he claimed.

Director of Services Fiona Lawless said the council wanted to do a good job with the €2m secured for the beach and that included disability access for wheelchairs.

'We want to attract tourists from around the country to this beach. But dogs on leads is vital,' she said.

She said she does not want wheelchair users to have to clean up after using the beach because of dogs.

'Dogs are welcome on the beach but need to be on leads. We want to become a Blue Flag beach and it's essential to have control over animals.'

Cllr Paddy Meade was unhappy with the long term plan to ban cars and the issues over horses and horse drawn carts, feeling it will drive them onto the roads. He said it would weaken tourism. He felt he was getting no support from fellow councillors on that issue, but supported 90% of the plan.

However, Cathaoirleach Sharon Keogan said she wanted to make it very clear that horses were not being taken off the beach.

Cllr Wayne Harding said dogs on leads would be favoured by some owners as they can be scared by other dogs running free.

Cllr Tom Behan expressed reservations about horse owners not being allowed to use the Nanny estuary area. 'It's a less populated area of the beach and is a huge attraction for owners.'

Again, council officials said it was simply a matter of a change of area to further down the beach for the horses, as the times stayed the same. 'We didn't decide it, it's an SPA proposal because there's wintering birds there. We have been told and we are obliged to do it.'

A vote on the proposals is expected at the full council meeting in October.

Drogheda Independent