New protection order could see visitors fined for drinking at Ilkley's pebble beaches after they became 'no-go area' in summer

New powers to tackle the anti-social behaviour, drug taking and tombstoning near the River Wharfe at Ilkley could be approved next week.

Police deal with youths following the dispersal order being issued on a hot day last summer
Police deal with youths following the dispersal order being issued on a hot day last summer

In recent years warm weather has brought crowds of people to the Ilkley Riverside area, which police say has created an “unprecedented demand” for their attendance.

Last summer, despite Covid restrictions, large groups of youths from as far afield as Manchester descended on the pebble beaches, many bringing alcohol, and the surge in visitors required up to 20 officers to be diverted from other duties to tackle the crowds.

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'Carnage' in Ilkley as hundreds of youths descend on River Wharfe

And the bridge across the river had to be closed on numerous occasions due to crowds of young people gathering to jump off the bridge and into the shallow river.

The repeated incidents brought the town unwelcome attention as the disorder and Covid breaches were featured in the national press.

Now Bradford Council has proposed introducing a Public Space Protection Order, which would give council wardens the power to hand out large fines to people who drink, are under the influence of drugs or cause anti-social behaviour in the area.

At a meeting of the Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee next Thursday members will decide whether to begin a six-week public consultation which would lead to the new order.

If implemented, people in the Riverside area could be fined up to £100 for acting in a threatening manner, drunken behaviour, littering, camping, lighting BBQs and “causing an obstruction or jumping from the footbridge over the River Wharfe connecting Ilkley with Denton Road and Middleton Woods.”

Failing to hand alcohol over to police would be a fine-able offence.

Members of the committee will hear evidence from police and the Friends of Ilkley Riverside Park, who say they have “spent countless hours cleaning up the alcohol, food and drug litter day after day.”

In a statement to the committee, Khalid Khan, Inspector for West Yorkshire Police’s Keighley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “Over the last three years the river bank in Ilkley has created an unprecedented demand during the hot weather on the police and our partners.

“Due to the spontaneous nature of these, often large, gatherings we can make short term plans by checking the weather forecast and maybe bank holidays otherwise we cannot always plan in advance or run it as an event and have to regularly pull resources from other parts of the district which in turn has a knock-on effect in other areas.

“Although each year we have increased our staffing, the demand has increased where we have continuously struggled with the increase in volume of people attending and the behaviour of certain people and groups.

“The first year was managing the sudden surge in volume of people turning up, second year we saw more groups turning up with drinks and those misbehaving at the Lido who were refused entry then turning up at the river bank causing further anti-social behaviour.

“Last year we saw further increased levels of anti-social behaviour often fuelled by alcohol and drug use - this was exacerbated by Covid restrictions such as school closures and the Lido not being open as well as periods of hot weather. We have seen groups travelling from other areas resulting in alcohol fuelled disorder.

“At one point this required a deployment of over 20 officers and Inspector Beecroft authorising a dispersal order which impacted not only those attending from outside but also local residents.

“On top of that was managing the safety of those individuals jumping off the footbridge, the high volume of traffic turning up causing obstructions across the local streets and the litter including drug paraphernalia.

“We also saw serious assaults and incident of disorder further up in the town linked to individuals attending the river bank.

“I can say that the impact on our resources stretches us immensely and puts our officers at risk as there is a huge demand on West Yorkshire Police on hot days not only in Ilkley but across the district.”

A statement from the Friends of Ilkley Riverside said: “Activities continue often late into the night at which point the drinking is often accompanied by legal (eg nitrous oxide cannisters) and illegal drugs.

“It has effectively become a “no go” area for residents during periods of hot weather.”

If the order is passed, then it will last for three years.

The committee meets online at 10am next Thursday.

A PSPO has already been imposed on Richmond Falls in North Yorkshire, a beauty spot which saw similar issues with 'lockdown parties' last summer.