Major action plan to tackle 'Ibiza parties' at Richmond Falls
Residents of Richmond have been warned that there aren't enough police to patrol an unlikely party spot that has become known as 'the Ibiza of the north'.
On several hot days during the lockdown in May and June, large groups of youths from all over the north of England descended on Richmond Falls on the River Swale.
They held 'Ibiza-style' parties which were documented on social media sites such as Snapchat and involved revellers taking drugs, drinking, having barbecues and inhaling nitrous oxide.
The partygoers travelled to the waterfalls from areas such as Teesside and Newcastle and there were arrests for drink driving and drugs supply. There were also issues with illegal parking and intimidating and abusive behaviour.
Now a major action plan has been unveiled to tackle future issues at the beauty spot after local residents said they were 'absolutely terrified' of more parties during the next heatwave.
Richmondshire Council claim to be the only local authority in the UK to have launched a proactive response to prevent outdoor parties and raves - yet councillors have warned that there aren't enough police in North Yorkshire to be able to enforce a crackdown.
A meeting heard that Richmond Falls was one of the most Googled places in the country during lockdown - with internet searches for the waterfalls increasing significantly on the late May Bank Holiday weekend.
While crowds also congregated in areas such as Keld, Aysgarth, Hawes and Reeth, which do not have the capacity to accommodate large numbers of visitors.
The council meeting - which agreed to support a 'multi-agency approach' which could involve the Royal Military Police, who were on duty at the Falls to monitor the behaviour of personnel from Catterick Garrison - also voted to apply for a Public Spaces Protection Order.
A PSPO bans activities such as drinking alcohol and using barbecues in a defined area, with offenders liable to receive on-the-spot fines. Groups can also be moved on and arrests can be made for non-compliance.
Yet the meeting was told that a PSPO would only be effective if there were enough police officers to enforce it.
Coun Helen Grant said: “My greatest fear is that come the August Bank Holiday it will be scorching hot and will be a place that people remember for all the wrong reasons.
“Young people with slabs underneath their armpits will go there and create the same situation all over again and families who want to enjoy the falls - it is a rite of passage for all children in this area - won’t feel it is safe to do so.”
Over 100 bags of litter and drugs detritus were collected from the Falls after one party.
While in Keld, which has a population of less than 50 people, 200 cars arrived in the village full of revellers.
Coun Stuart Parsons added: “The residents of Richmond are absolutely terrified of the next couple of good days.”
North Yorkshire Police will be asked to direct more resources to Richmond if they have intelligence that more gatherings are planned.
Other councillors said that they thought the parties were 'one-off' incidents exacerbated by the unusual situation during lockdown, when travel overseas was forbidden, young people had limited entertainment options and schools and colleges were closed.
The meeting heard the PSPO would not be a 'magic bullet' and would serve mainly to make a clear statement about anti-social behaviour.
Richmondshire Council director Colin Dales said: “Please don’t anyone expect three dozen police officers to charge onto the Falls and issue fixed penalty notices left right and centre.”