'Dog run' in York is making residents' life 'a living hell'

Residents in York say their lives have become “a living hell” due to their local play area becoming a “dog run”.

How the fenced off area on the green space off Birkdale Grove, in Acomb, should be used has split the community, with some people saying children now feel unsafe playing there due to the number of dogs.

Dog owners have said they value the enclosed space, which gives their pets a safe space to play off the lead.

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Resident Neville Murphy said the popularity of the council-owned area as a place for dog walkers started rising significantly three years ago after word spread on social media.

The 'dog run' area on Birkdale Grove in YorkThe 'dog run' area on Birkdale Grove in York
The 'dog run' area on Birkdale Grove in York

Neil McLeay added: “For the 27 years I’ve lived there, the first 23 to 24 years, the children played there regularly, without interference from dogs. It’s not suitable now for children to play on because of dog excrement and dogs attacking younger children.”

The council’s executive member for environment, Paula Widdowson, heard residents’ concerns at a meeting on Wednesday (February 9).

Council officers recommended removing the fence, saying it would make the area less attractive for dog walking, but Coun Widdowson said the proposal needed more work.

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‘No dogs’ signs were installed by the council in January 2021, but they were vandalised and eventually removed. The signs were advisory and could not be enforced anyway without a separate dog control order.

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Tensions have continued to rise in the area and a ballot, which several people described as flawed, to households in Birkdale Grove, Prestwick Court and Greensborough Avenue was issued in October. Of the 19 responses, 11 were for removal of the fence, with eight people against.

Mr Murphy said he had been subject to threats of violence and abusive language from dog owners, adding that professional dog walkers sometimes brought up to ten dogs at time to the play area.

He added: “We have three grandsons who used to enjoy playing on there, but they’re now too frightened to use the field unless I’m present.

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“The majority of us feel that if the fence is removed dog owners will look elsewhere to let their dogs run wild. I think they have an advantage in that it’s fenced in, they can stand there on their phones or whatever and just let their dogs go absolutely potty.”

Karen Murphy described it as “a living hell”.

She added: “Who’s more important – the children playing on that field safely, or the dogs from all over Acomb?”

But Jo Lindley said the “vast majority of users are responsible and respectful.”

She added: “Because it’s a contained space it helps to keep games in, it keeps the children in a particular defined area.

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“It’s the fact that it’s a helpfully defined safe space that makes the difference and it would make the community resource and amenities of the space poorer if the fencing was removed.”

Caroline Ryder, from Acomb Girl Guiding, said the fenced off area gave the guides a safe outdoor place to play.

She added: “The area was never found to be unclean, we never found litter or dog dirt. We interacted with the dog owners and we found them to be communicative and responsible and we didn’t have any conflict.”

Coun Widdowson said: “I don’t think this is at all cut and dried.”

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She said ward councillor Katie Lomas would be asked to try to build a consensus with residents.

Possible outcomes include: the fenced area staying and being designated as for children only; using ward funds to install play equipment to see what effect it would have; making the area dual-use; or taking the fence down entirely.

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