A new dog training facility will be built near one of Somerset’s most elegant tourist attractions after plans were approved.
The Harron family from Taunton applied to fence off existing agricultural land off Yalway Road in West Monkton to create a “canine activity training facility” to help dog owners deal with problematic behaviour in their pets.
The family said the facility – which lies less than a mile from Hestercombe House and Gardens – was much-needed following a rise in pet ownership during the numerous national lockdowns.
Somerset West and Taunton Council has now ruled the facility can go ahead, despite initial concerns about its impact on the natural environment.
The council’s planning committee met to discuss the plans in Taunton on Thursday afternoon (May 20).
The committee had originally intended to decide the plans’ fate in late-April, but a decision was deferred to gather more information on how it would impact both Hestercombe House and the Quantock Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
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Addressing the committee, Mrs Harron said the facility would offer support to struggling pet owners and would therefore prevent large number of dogs having to be re-homed or euthanised.
She said: “Between half and three-quarters of dogs in the UK are believed to have a behavioural problem of some sort, and we know that lockdown will have exacerbated this.
“These problems can be extremely distressing for the owners and their families, causing a range of emotions. Their expectations of dog ownership may not have been met, with owners blaming themselves and being at their wits’ end.
“Access to a behaviourist for help, resulting in a prescribed behaviour modification plan, can offer enormous relief and the hope of a solution with ongoing support.
“The option to use this field during therapy could greatly improve the prospects for dog and owner.”
The field would be bookable for dog exercise and will allow one-to-one training in a “specialised professional facility”, with up to two dogs being catered for at any one time.
The site would be available between 8am and 6pm on weekdays, 9am to 4pm on Saturdays and 9am to noon on Sundays.
Councillor Norman Cavill (whose West Monkton & Cheddon Fitzpaine ward includes the site) said: “This site is surrounded by fields on all sites, which are used by dairy cattle.
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“It is in a very quiet location, and it’s for that very reason why it’s so desirable for the applicant – and in some ways, very suitable.”
Councillor Marcia Hill – the vice-chair of the committee – added: “This is something for dogs that need therapy. Every animal deserves a chance, and I think this is an ideal, quiet place.
“It’s not going to bother many people – I think there ought to be a bit of compassion here for the owners, their families and the dogs themselves.”
The committee voted to approve the plans after less than 45 minutes’ debate.