Charge for commercial dog walkers will protect Woodbury Common wildlife, says trust

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 13 April 2018

Dog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9982. Picture: Terry Ife

Dog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9982. Picture: Terry Ife

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A conservation trust has defended its decision to charge commercial dog walkers operating on some of Exmouth's most popular heaths.

Dog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9983. Picture: Terry IfeDog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9983. Picture: Terry Ife

East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, set up by Clinton Devon Estates, is launching a scheme to ‘improve the management of heaths’ at Woodbury, Bicton and East Budleigh.

The new system will require commercial dog walkers to register and pay a nominal fee of £50 to operate on land managed by the trust.

Site manager Kim Strawbridge says the new idea was motivated by the need to protect the ‘internationally important landscape’, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

“The heaths are an amazing place for wildlife and are home to thousands of species, many of which are rare or even endangered.

Dog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9982. Picture: Terry IfeDog walker Stevie Louise Hill with Kim Strawbridge of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust on Woodbury Common. Ref exe 12 18TI 9982. Picture: Terry Ife

“It’s vitally important that we balance the needs of both people and wildlife on this popular and special site,” she said.

Stevie Louise Hill, who runs Just Purr-fect, in Exmouth, employs nine people in the dog walking and day-care business and believes the scheme is ‘an excellent idea’.

She said: “It makes things really open and members of the public will know commercial dog walkers are using the heaths in a responsible, professional way.

“We always stick to the paths and clean up after the animals, using the dog bins or taking the waste away ourselves.”

Stevie’s comments followed a discussion on the Exmouth Community Facebook page, in which some commenting had raised concerns about the new fee.

One accused Clinton Devon Estates of ‘looking to make a buck at every opportunity’, while another queried their authority to charge for using ‘common land’.

The trust acknowledged the public’s right to use the heaths for ‘air and exercise’, which has existed for more than 90 years.

However, it said these rights only applied to individuals – not organisations using the heaths for commercial purposes.

Ms Strawbridge explained: “Just as we licence horse-riding schools to use the heaths, we also need professional dog walkers to seek a licence from us.

“We want to work with businesses that share the value we place on the heaths and operate in a sustainable and professional manner.”

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