Bridgend council have their work cut out to prevent some of their quiet paths and open spaces losing their attractions and becoming unnerving for people to use and difficult to access. Although outside the county borough for which I represent Open Spaces Society, I was asked to check the effects of a planning application near Blackmill north of Bridgend.
The application is the latest by a dog training group, Malpeet, who have advertised that they give dogs a “last chance” to retrain as security, or drug or explosive detection dogs. The centre is at the apex of a long lane looping off the main road from Tonyrefail to Blackmill, uphill and behind the house fronting the stream, Nant Iechyd, that flows through Cwm Dimbath.
Dimbath Lane is narrow and, like many lanes, not brilliantly maintained: it is fine for the recreational users it attracts, cyclists, horse-riders, walkers including family groups or adventurous children. There is a ford by the entrance to the proposed dog training: it is picturesque, even in the rain with a cutting east wind.
Off the lane are several tracks and footpaths, and Bridgend’s Footpath 8 runs through land belonging to the proposed dog training centre – it is, in fact already operating and has been refused: this is a “new” application.
Using online maps, I can see the forest track to the left of the stream, and the FP 8 is to the right. An immediate problem is that the forestry track has an entry through a stile and clear line, but FP 8 is not marked at all.
There are traces, and Malpeet have put up signs suggesting that dogs are not trained on the land the path crosses, so that the public should not meet dogs in training along either side of the stream.
We drove on through the ford and met no traffic before the main road. Cwm Dimbath, with an SSSI and climbs, leads into Ogmore Forest and FP 8 is the only right of way going northwards and linking into the paths in the forest. I am not convinced that the fencing and notices will give people confidence to use the path. The dog handlers I’ve seen tend to be shaven-headed and like TV heavies, and might not enhance enjoyment for many. What with extra traffic to and fro, and explosions and exercises all day and night the proposed dog centre would certainly change the area’s character.