A petition has been launched calling for dog walkers to be able to use Weymouth Beach during the lockdown.

The online petition, which has more than 220 signatures as of yesterday, started as a response to Dorset Council stating the current restrictions will continue to be enforced despite the guidelines on social distancing.

Under current rules, dogs are banned from the main beach area between Good Friday and October.

Dorset Council was asked if these restrictions can be lifted due to the coronavirus situation but it refused, stating they can only be changed following a legal process including a public consultation

Weymouth Beach is within walking distance for many dog owners, who argue they need a larger space to main a safe distance from others whilst giving their dogs their required exercise.

Linda Stevenson, who runs local dog walking group, Dog Friendly Weymouth and Portland, said: “We have written to Dorset Council and asked them to reconsider. We have a longer ban than other beaches in the country and we have a lot of people who live within walking distance of the beach.

“We have also contacted Weymouth town councillors who participated in the consultation survey. They supported our request and will be asking further questions at this week’s video conference.

“We’d like to stay on the beach so that everyone in the community gets the space that we all need. People seem to think we’re trying to be selfish, its actually an unselfish act that we’re trying to do as we don’t want to be walking on the shared path with our dogs, coming into contact with other people. When groups go out as a family, walking or cycling, it can be very hard to get out of their way and avoid them”.

Restrictions, due to be in place from April 10 into October, are part of a Public Spaces Protection Order.

Cllr David Gray said: “For all the people that live within walking distance to the beach it’s a really serious blow. Dog owners are being forced to walk along the promenade which means that you cannot enforce the two metre rule. Try being two metres apart on the promenade with dog leads, it’s impossible.

“I generally agree with a PSPO that is fairly universal, but I do think there can be room for local variation. Isn’t it better to say ‘let’s just relax the rules until the COVID-19 situation is over’.”

The PSPO consultation will be running until Sunday, April 19 and can be accessed via www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/dogspspo