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14 September 2008

Dogs on One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill is a much-loved Local Nature Reserve on Honor Oak Park with fantastic views of central London. But it's also used by commercial dog-walkers and that's stirred up quite a debate in SE23. We invited Sandy Pepperell, the Chair of the Friends of One Tree Hill (FROTH) to explain the situation.

The Friends of One Tree Hill have received a range of correspondence related to dog walking on One Tree Hill. This has mainly focused on commercial dog walking. Incidents have ranged from several dogs running uncontrolled into the adjoining allotments (chasing a fox) to intimidation and biting of individuals. While we would advise people actually injured by dogs to report this to local police, we have endeavoured to pass on these observations to LB Southwark's dog wardens and they carry out patrols from time to time on the Hill.

However, we were particularly perturbed by a thread on a local Forest Hill chatroom (SE23.com) earlier this year which presented the site as unwelcoming due to the presence of dogs and as a result we have stepped up our requests to Southwark Council to investigate ways to address our concerns about the number of dogs being exercised on the Hill.

The LB of Southwark and the Friends of One Tree Hill have no intention of excluding dogs from the Hill, but we do wish (and have a duty) to protect this Local Nature Reserve from destruction and damage by large groups of dogs running loose, digging up the ground and leaving faeces behind. In addition, of course, our aim is to promote One Tree Hill as a visitor site and £15,000 has just been earmarked by the council to maintain and improve access and information. Our events have included bird and tree walks and this September sees the second stage of an archaeological dig relating to the likely siting of a WW1 anti-Zeppelin gun at the summit of the Hill.

All of this promotion of One Tree Hill will be undermined if local people (and this has included dog owners) are discouraged from visiting. It is to address this that we, together with Southwark, are investigating controls on dog walking. This is likely to relate to the number of dogs walked at any one time, to their being 'under control' and clearing up after them. Before anything official can be put into practice, however, the council is obliged to consult locally so there will be an opportunity for people to have their say.

We are aware that discussion of this issue sometimes results in strong feelings in respect of the freedoms of various users of One Tree Hill and that dogs and dog walking give some a great deal of pleasure which not everyone shares. In order to achieve a balance, we hope some kind of compromise can be achieved.

Then it will truly be a community amenity where we can all appreciate a bit of calm in an otherwise frenetic world.

You can visit our website and contact us at: www.onetreehill.org.uk

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