Axminster garden closure defended on health grounds

PUBLISHED: 13:43 21 October 2019

Axminster's old courthouse garden which is now locked at night and (inset) Cllr Jeremy Walden. Pictures: Chris Carson

Axminster's old courthouse garden which is now locked at night and (inset) Cllr Jeremy Walden. Pictures: Chris Carson

Archant

Axminster Town Council has defended its decision to limit access to a town centre garden, claiming dog fouling was putting children's health at risk.

The sign outside the Old Courthouse garden now padlocked at night. Picture Chris CarsonThe sign outside the Old Courthouse garden now padlocked at night. Picture Chris Carson

he gate leading to the green space at the Old Courthouse complex is now padlocked when the neighbouring café and shop are closed to prevent people going there.

The move has angered local resident Kathy Hackman who said a rare tranquil green space was being denied to local people.

Speaking during the public forum session at the town council meeting on October 14, she asked why there had been no warning that the gate was to be locked - sometimes when it was still daylight.

"You are depriving us of precious time in the only place in town where we can sit away from the traffic noise and pollution," she said. "This is no way to treat the public."

Mrs Hackman has also complained that the council recently decided to ban bird-feeding in the garden, even though there was just one discreet feeder, and 'bird life is loved by visitors'. Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said the decision to padlock the gate followed reports from staff and others that dogs were fouling the area outside of the times when the operators of the adjoining café were not present. The gate was now locked at the close of day and opened first thing the following morning.

Cllr Jeremy Walden said some 20 years ago the town council had decided that the courthouse garden would be closed at night - to combat anti social behaviour and 'other things' that were going on, about which he said he was not prepared to comment further as they were a matter of ongoing investigation.

He said the garden closure had continued for a long time but then lapsed because of a number of reasons. The decision to use the padlock again was merely reverting to previous policy.

Cllr Douglas Hull backed the decision to lock the gates.

He said: "We have dog poo in there and my worry is about children playing there."

Cllr Hull said youngsters faced catching toxocariasis from infected dog dirt, which can lead to blindness.

Toxocariasis is a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites. Humans can catch it from handling soil or sand contaminated with infected animal faeces.

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