RESIDENTS have hit out at proposals to fence off areas of St Mary’s Lands to stop dogs disturbing nesting birds.
The Friends of St Mary’s Lands say Warwick District Council is planning to fence off an ‘enormous’ area to protect birds.
It is part of a package of measures which also includes changing the hours of model airplane flying.
But the group claims there is no evidence dogs are disturbing nesting birds, and since 2011 only one warning letter has been issued.
It came after a petition was launched earlier this year – which gained 6,000 signatures – and asked for no further restrictions for dogs and their owners in Warwick district.
The lands are covered by an act of parliament which says around 60 acres should be for the public, and there should be access except on race days.
Group spokeswoman Linda Bromley said: “The Friends of St Mary’s Lands are alarmed at Warwick District Council’s proposal to fence off areas because dogs are disturbing birds.
“It appears from the ecology report it is the model aeroplanes that cause the problem and the disturbance from joggers and walkers is low to moderate.
“We maintain there are clearly marked paths which are already being observed and the nesting site area is avoided by dog walkers. Fencing is unnecessary, confrontational and counter-productive.
“Residents are being excluded from what the vast majority still believe is common land and it is inevitable that another campaign will be launched to demand this proposal is dropped forthwith.
“With its historic, aesthetic and uninhibited openness, the special features of St Mary’s Lands would be stolen, not only from us, but more importantly future generations.”
But Warwick District Council say dogs cause ‘significant’ harm to nesting birds.
A spokeswoman told the Observer: “The proposals being put forward are a key part of balancing our commitment to encouraging nature and biodiversity whilst continuing to improve public access on St Mary’s Lands.
“An independent ecologist report has indicated there is significant harm caused to ground nesting birds by dogs during the breeding season, it is therefore important to consider taking further action to protect these declining species.
“Any plans to install temporary barriers during the nesting season, would be subject to further development and a public consultation. If installed the temporary barriers would not be placed on footpaths or public rights of way. Essentially there will be no substantive changes to measures the council has put in place over many years, which have received no objections from the public, it is therefore hoped that users of St Mary’s Lands will understand the necessity for more effective and robust protection for these nesting sites.”