Dales parish council ‘inundated’ with complaints about dog fouling

Hens in an Askrigg field were "traumatised" by dog attack. Picture Martin and Kate Empsall.

By Betsy Everett

The chairman of a dales parish council says he looks forward to the day when every meeting isn’t totally dominated by complaints of dog fouling.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when this parish council spends more time talking about dog fouling than all the other issues in this parish put together. I hope there’ll come a time when we don’t have to talk about it all,” said Bruce Fawcett, chairman of Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council. 

Reading an angry letter from a resident, Councillor Fawcett said he had been “inundated” with complaints.

“Dogs are left to roam about the village and they’ve got to be kept under control. One jumped over a gate and a six-feet high wall and the fouling is appalling,” he said.

The letter-writer detailed a wide area across the village where in one day they had seen fouling, from the west end, through the main street and near the playground.

“What can the parish council do to raise this issue with the public?” they asked.

Cllr Fawcett said people had sent him photographs and “video nasties” of dogs causing a mess.

Resident Kate Empsall said the problem was not only fouling: one dog had “shredded through our field. It killed one hen, severely damaged another, and traumatised the whole lot. It got over a six foot wall. If it happens again we are definitely going to the police. We were offered compensation but nothing can compensate for that.”

Jill Leslie, who regularly patrols the fields and footpaths cleaning up as she goes, said the dog warden had put up more signs but they had made no difference.

“That’s because dogs can’t read: it’s not the dogs it’s the people who won’t take responsibility and keep them under control,” said Cllr Fawcett, adding he had recently returned from a holiday in Krakow.

“What we noticed was just how clean it was. People walk their dogs, they smoke, but there’s not a fag end anywhere, there’s no dog-fouling and no litter. You come back to this country and there’s cans and bottles and MacDonald’s wrappers and all sorts. I just don’t know how we can get people to change.”

Members agreed with clerk to the council, Karen Lynch, that schoolchildren might be asked to design posters to be put up in the village.

“A lot of the mess is near the playground and on the pavements on the school run. Perhaps people might take it more seriously if we could involve the children who are being put at risk,” she said.

Church tower – Plans to render the tower of St Oswald’s Church to protect it was “a great mistake” former chairman Allen Kirkbride told members, adding that he did not want his name to be associated with the decision. 

“It’s a 14th century listed building. It’s one on its own. There is no way that tower should be rendered. It’s not right and it’s not even going to solve the problem [of water ingress],” he said, adding that a better and more appropriate solution would be to point the stonework.

As a member of the national park authority’s planning committee, Cllr Kirkbride said he did not comment on planning matters, but the rendering of the tower, at a cost of around £200,000, had already been approved by the authority and English Heritage had had the final say. He thought it would spoil the look of the church.

Current chairman, Bruce Fawcett, said the church worked in mysterious ways, employing its own experts, boffins and builders. “It’s a bit of a closed shop,” he said, agreeing that he thought the tower needed pointing, not rendering.
The church authorities had concluded that the building had been rendered in the past, but Councillor David Teasdale, a builder, said there was no evidence of that.  “If it had, the mullions would have been level with the plaster and they are not, they are set back,” he said. He believed that over time the render would crack and water would get in, lifting it from the original stonework. Cllr Fawcett added: “If I knew the rendering would solve the problem I’d be happy with it, but the more people I talk to, the less sure I am.” Members agreed it was the church’s problem, and there was nothing as a council they could do about it.

Cllr Kirkbride reported that the wooden post holding the floodlights in the churchyard was rotten and that a local electrician had agreed to replace it and fix the lights onto it.

Foundation – The building contract for the two flats and a small cottage at the Askrigg Foundation’s property in Main Street, had been awarded to Neil Dinsdale of Hawes, members were told. Planners were refusing to allow installation of wooden, double-glazed windows, insisting the current ones be kept. This would create an enormous amount of work to repair the rotten wood and would not be a viable option for affordable housing. Negotiations were underway. Asbestos removal would start on  Monday, February 17.

School – Following criticisms last year of plans – since scrapped – to erect a high mesh fence around the village primary school, the school was aiming for more community involvement to prevent similar conflict in the future, said Cllr Kirkbride. They had invited representatives of the parish council, national park authority, and Yorebridge Education Foundation to a meeting but, said Cllr Fawcett, they had called it at an awkward time. “People who work can’t be there in the middle of the day so in future they’ll need to make a more a more sensible arrangement,” he said. The school would be asked if this could be done.

Plastic waste  – Wayward plastic wrapping from farms was being borne on the wind and finding its way to the sea, said a resident in a letter, and asked if farmers could be reminded to pick it up immediately. Members would reply saying they agreed it was bad practice but that it was the farmers’ responsibility.

Acrid smell – A resident in Silver Street reported a horrible, acrid, chemical-like smell coming into her property mornings and evenings. It was choking her and she could not work out where it was coming from. The council would investigate.

St Oswald’s Church, Askrigg
The tower window with a rotten frame.