A pet shop owner says he can’t support a councillor’s proposal for a ‘doggy park’ to be situated in Redcar.

Tony Vernalls, who runs Just Natural Dogs based in Locke Park, Redcar, said he had been approached by Councillor Carrie Richardson to see if he would offer his support for the idea.

Cllr Richardson, who represents the Newcomen ward, floated the idea of a field close to the park that was once but is no longer used by Sacred Heart School being designated by Redcar and Cleveland Council as a safe, enclosed area that dog trainers could rent for classes and other canine-related activities allowing animals to mix could take place.Darlington and Stockton Times: Tony Vernalls pictured outside his pet supplies business in Locke Park, Redcar

But Mr Vernalls said it would further damage his award-winning pet supplies business, which had already been hit by a dog must be kept on leads regulation imposed as part of a renewed public spaces protection order affecting a number of areas including parks and gardens the council is responsible for.

The businessman said: “The field is already dog friendly, why would you want to potentially spend public funds making it more dog friendly?

“I am a local resident to that field and I and other neighbours frequently have our driveways blocked by people from out of the area coming to walk their dogs, as there is no parking facility.

“This will in fact cause a further drop in turnover for my business, by attracting dog walkers who currently use Locke Park and are passing trade for both me and the café, to go elsewhere.”

Earlier this year Cllr Richardson, who is now the cabinet member for climate change, environment and culture, secured a commitment from the council that it would examine the feasibility of segregated areas for dogs where they can be exercised freely and securely, an idea adopted by some local authorities elsewhere which has also proved popular in European countries.

She said no sites had been earmarked, but the council was talking to other councils along with organisations with vested interests such as the RSPCA about what might work.

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Cllr Richardson, who has expressed concern about dog attacks and dog fouling in the borough, said: “If there is no public desire for it, it won’t happen.”

She said the Sacred Heart field was currently open on all three sides and could potentially be gated as a safe off-lead area for all dogs with responsible owners, and she was just trying to do something helpful.

Cllr Richardson suggested the council would set the rules and it would be up to it how it was monitored from an enforcement point of view.

She said: “The feasibility study is due to conclude soon and of course, Tony’s [Vernalls’] views and anybody else’s would be taken into consideration if this site was chosen, as part of any public consultation.”

The councillor added: “I did say to Tony we could offer him a stall or advertising at the dog park if it went ahead.  “We would want to support his business in every way possible.”

Mr Vernalls said the restriction placed by the council on previously “dog-friendly, off-lead areas” had caused his turnover to drop by 40% and “almost put me out of business”.

He said: “I have been here three-and-a-half years and have built up the business from nothing to a turnover of £6,000 a month.

“But they did that and I dropped immediately by 40%, bang, gone, and it was all walk past trade that I lost as a result of dog walkers not coming into the park anymore because they were angry about having to keep their dogs on a lead.

“It’s been extremely stressful and I have had to invest my own funds to keep growing the business when the money was previously there.

“I actually don’t disagree with the new rule because it was brought in due to a small minority of inconsiderate and irresponsible dog owners who do not control their dogs, or clean up after them, and that hasn’t changed, it’s just moved to another location.

“But I do think it would have been sensible to incorporate an off-lead area, which I am currently campaigning for, within the parks, as other councils have done.

“[This] would have satisfied both sides of this issue, without causing ill feeling, and trust me there is a lot over this.

“Not one of the public parks in Redcar has a secure off-lead area and every other borough council around here and around the country that I am aware of has done that.”

The council previously said it recognised the control of dogs in public spaces by dog walkers as an emerging issue and one that required a robust enforcement response.

However, its approach has been described as a cautious one and aims to strike a balance between the need to tackle uncontrolled dogs and dog fouling against the desire and entitlement of people to use public space.

Mr Vernalls, who has clawed back some of his business which also operates online, said he had been in touch with the local authority with his concerns and said it had quoted statistics and skirted around what he had asked for, or his e-mails had been ignored.

He said: “Most of my doggy customers who come into the shop agree that a walk around the park with their dog on the lead is now much safer than it was before.

“But they also, like me, understand that a dog needs to have some off lead time and a run.

“It’s alright the council saying there are other areas for dogs to do this – I have a lady in a motorised wheelchair whose little dog would not bother anybody who can’t access other areas suggested in a wheelchair, she just can’t.”

The 65-year-old, who previously served in the RAF, has raised an online petition calling for an off-lead exercise area in Locke Park and other public parks in the borough, which he said would be a reasonable compromise.