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S&S Doggie Field granted retrospective planning permission

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Owners of a dog walking park have spoken of their relief after it was finally given planning permission.

S&S Doggie Field, off Underhill Road, Folkestone, has been operating since 2019 but sought to get retrospective planning permission earlier this year.

S&S Doggie Field in Folkestone has been granted planning permission. All pictures: S&S Doggie Field
S&S Doggie Field in Folkestone has been granted planning permission. All pictures: S&S Doggie Field

But in April, the application was deferred after councillors at Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) were torn over its location. Neighbours also objected.

To see if it was in the right place, the council asked for the owners, Pam Suddens and Claire Goodchild, to do a sequential test.

Planning officers initially recommended the plans for refusal in April and despite the owners not submitting a test, officers changed their mind last week at planning committee and said the site was 'appropriate' in the countryside.

A neighbour, Lisa Stock, runs a horse training stable and said the change from planning officers was 'surprising'.

She said: “Residents here feel ignored as we continue to suffer privacy loss, noise and traffic disturbance.

The owners' dogs, Sage and Saffron
The owners' dogs, Sage and Saffron

“My business continues to suffer, I am losing clients because of this and clients fear if I can survive long term.

“I know some of my more amateur and novice owners are trying to find more peaceful yards for their horses, which by their nature can only live in a tranquil and safe location.

“My ability to provide my livelihood and full time employment is now in doubt, I am begging you to block this flawed and unnecessary application."

However, a frequent user of the field with her border collie, Patricia Richardson said: “I have found it to be an invaluable facility.

“For me it is preferable to walking near public roads which I find stressful and hard work. The rural location is perfect, and easily accessible from the town.

“Since coming to the field my dog has gained confidence, he is calmer and is able to socialise one on one with other dogs that are familiar to him."

But councillors voted the plans through with a vote of six in favour, five against and one abstention.

Owner Pam said: "We're very relieved. This has been going on since July last year.

"We're very popular but also careful about how we run it. There is always at least a 30 minute gap between appointments to ensure no cars meet each other on the single track road.

"We know neighbours have complained about noise, but we're the closest to the field and we don't hear dogs barking."

Pam and Claire, both retired school teachers, have lived in the road for 17 years and named the doggie field on land they own after their two Cockapoos, Sage and Saffron.

Cllr David Wimble
Cllr David Wimble

The one acre field, which includes two small shelters with bowls, bin bags and pump shower for dirty paws, is open seven days a week.

Prices start at £5 for half hour or £8 for the full hour, up to four dogs maximum.

Speaking at the planning meeting, Cllr David Wimble (Ind), supported the venture: “As a dog owner I would love to have something like this.

“I am sympathetic to the neighbour who keeps horses, however in my experience they do get used to it.

“I think this is quite an exemplar scheme for exercising dogs and I hope to have something like down on the Marsh."

Cllr Georgina Treloar (Green) said the application shouldn’t be decided on who loves their animals most: “I was hoping this time it wouldn’t devole into who’s owned what pets, because they’re not planning considerations.

“This is not a business that should be in the countryside setting. It’s a rural location, the traffic issues seem to be significant, these seem to be enough reasons to reject this."

Cllr Jim Martin (Green) was equally critical of the owners who hadn’t submitted a sequential test: “It doesn’t really help if we ask for a sequential test and we didn’t get one.

“This is a retrospective application, the business has been running for two years already so there’s clearly been no attention paid to any rules. I honestly don’t know how anyone could support this."

Supporting the field, Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee (Con) said: “I went and visited the site, and yes it’s a narrow lane but obviously there isn’t an awful amount of traffic up there.

“It’s been running for two years, the fact that it is retrospective is not a material consideration."

While near the site, Cllr Hollingsbee spoke to and agreed with a local resident who believed it was merely a “neighbours dispute”.

Cllr Wimble was also dismissive of the need for a sequential test: “There is no need legally to have a test, why would you go through all the expense to do something you don’t need to do.

“The committee can ask for whatever it likes, tickets to the moon, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it."

Cllr Martin responded saying that if the council requested for a test to be done it should reasonably expect one, but planning officer Rob Bailey clarified that it was not policy to need one.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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