Grant Woodward: It’s time for dog-only parks in Leeds

Is it time to fence off areas where dogs can be let off their leads away from children?
Is it time to fence off areas where dogs can be let off their leads away from children?
Have your say

Owners who let dogs off their leads are spoiling family days out, so why aren’t we doing something about it?

WHEN you visit other parts of the country it really brings home just how lucky we are to have one of Europe’s biggest parks in our city.

Roundhay Park is one of our favourite destinations as a family, allowing us to get our children out and about on their bikes, take a stroll round the lakes or enjoy a jumpers-for-goalposts kickabout in the (occasional) sunshine.

The only thing that spoils it are the dog owners.

Now I’m not talking about every dog walker who uses the park, but it’s definitely an increasing minority.

It’s reached the point where we’re unable to go more than 50 yards without our children, particularly our daughter, freezing in fright or jumping off their bikes and running away because a dog is off its lead and bounding toward them.

At this point the owner, usually a good distance away, will call over that their dog “is a big softy who wouldn’t hurt a fly”. Either that or they’re completely oblivious to the situation.

Other families have mentioned having the same concerns.

As well as you think you know your dog, tragedies which have seen people of all ages, but especially youngsters, mauled to death are proof you can’t take anything for granted.

I love dogs and used to have one myself who I still miss to this day.

And there was nothing he liked more than to be let off his lead and have a good gallop around.

But if there were young children around – and despite the fact he was genuinely a big softy – I would keep him on his leash out of courtesy.

So what’s the solution?

Well, over in Australia they have specific areas of parks that are fenced off for dogs to run free with no kids around.

Roundhay Park is big enough to do the same, so why don’t the council give it a try?

Now bring pedlars of Hillsborough lies to justice

I REMEMBER it to this day. A bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, playing computer games with a friend in my bedroom, we flicked over to Grandstand.

The scenes being beamed from the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield were almost impossible to comprehend. Football-mad 14-year-olds, we sat in stunned silence as the carnage unfolded before us, commentator John Motson attempting to make some sense of it all.

Even then the lies were spreading their tentacles, strangling the truth as desperate young men carried their already dead mates on makeshift stretchers across the crowd-strewn pitch.

“The reason it happened was that one of the outside gates here was broken and non-ticket holders forced their way in and overcrowded the section at the Leppings Lane End,” Motson told us and millions of horror-struck viewers.

And that’s what we thought too. That the supporters were to blame. Four years earlier, a gaggle of us had crowded round a portable black and white telly at Cub camp to watch Liverpool play Juventus in the European Cup Final.

As the violence unfolded, our Akela had told us to go to bed. We ended up listening to the game on a radio in our tent. By the end of the night, Liverpool had lost 1-0 and 39 people were dead.

Fourteen Liverpool fans were later found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for three years. English clubs were banned from European competition for five years.

So as the cameras panned across the Hillsborough pitch showing spectators pumping the chests of lifeless bodies, the feeling was that the hooligans had done it again. And the authorities were quite happy for the British public to swallow that lie. In fact, they engineered it.

The tragic irony is that if Heysel hadn’t happened there would have been no need for wire fences surrounding pitches and the penning in of supporters.

But we now know Hillsborough wasn’t caused by hooliganism. Fans hadn’t forced open the gate. David Duckenfield, the police officer in charge on that fateful spring day, had lied to FA officials.

More than a quarter of a century later, at the fresh inquests in Warrington, he admitted it was unlocked on his orders because the police’s abject failure to properly control crowds outside the entrance had resulted in a crush as fans attempted to get into the ground.

It was a lie that set the template for the subterfuge that followed. The cover-up over the disaster would shame a banana republic. In a so-called democracy it is enough to chill you to the bone.

It started within minutes of the full horror of Hillsborough becoming apparent. It saw police photographers despatched to find discarded beer cans, evidence that drunken supporters were to blame when they were not.

False stories were fed to newspapers that supporters urinated on ambulance workers and stole from the dead. Critical comments were removed from no fewer than 116 statements given by rank and file officers at the scene in a bid to absolve their superiors of blame.

All of it part of the desperate scramble by senior police officers and others to cover their tracks and conceal the truth.

This was corruption – pure and simple. And shamefully, the recent inquests saw some continue to try to deflect blame for the tragedy on to the dead.

It is worth remembering that all the damning evidence that has been presented over the past few years, laying bare the truth of what happened on that day, has always been there.

Yet despite pleas from the families of the 96, successive governments – both Conservative and Labour – turned their backs on them.

And it wasn’t just the families of the 96 who were lied to, the entire nation was wickedly misled. The next logical step after the unlawful killing verdict is to start criminal proceedings against those who sought to hide the truth from us for 27 long years.

They must be held to account. And every time those in positions of authority scoff at a “conspiracy theory”, we must remember Hillsborough.

He’s tough, but can Bear Grylls survive Leeds?

I’M intrigued by survival expert Bear Grylls’ upcoming date at the First Direct Arena, which was announced this week.

After all, we’ve seen him on telly doing some pretty hair-raising stuff.

Who can forget that time he dug a sheep out of a bog with his bare hands before eating its raw heart?

Or tucked into yak eyeball and bear poo (no, the animal’s, not his own), washed down with some delicious elephant dung juice? Yum.

So how exactly is Bear hoping to dazzle his audience with similar feats of astonishing courage in the face of adversity when he’s in the middle of Leeds city centre? And then it hit me.

Bear’s going to attempt to survive a typical Saturday night in the city centre.

We’ll see him talking his way out of getting punched by a couple of gorillas on Woodhouse Lane, then bravely munching on a 2am kebab before somehow managing to secure a taxi home. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s got all the hallmarks of his toughest mission yet.