Consultation to begin on public space protection order at Ilkley's riverside area

It is hoped that a new public space protection order could prevent the chaotic scenes seen at Ilkley’s riverside area in recent summers from happening again this year.

The River Wharfe in Ilkley
The River Wharfe in Ilkley

Councillors yesterday voted to move ahead with a six-week consultation that would eventually lead to a new order that would give more powers to wardens and police to disperse crowds gathering at the beauty spot – including powers to issue fines for tombstoning, drinking and lighting fires.

In recent years warm weather has brought huge crowds to the area, often from far outside the Bradford district – an issue police say is increasingly stretching their resources.

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At times up to 20 officers have had to be diverted from other duties to police the area, and the bridge over the River Wharfe has been closed on several occasions to stop crowds congregating to jump off into the shallow river below.

There are regularly reports of people openly taking drugs and threatening other visitors to the site.

The issues continued last year – despite lockdown restrictions, bringing the town unwelcome attention in the national press.

At a meeting yesterday, members of Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee supported beginning a consultation that would lead to the new orders being implemented.

Similar orders have been introduced in Bradford’s City Park/Centenary Square area.

Members were shown photos of crowds at the riverside, some drinking alcohol and lighting barbecues. They also saw photos of litter-strewn riverbanks and posts on Ilkley community Facebook pages by residents who described the riverside as a “no go area” during warm weather.

Michael Churley said the behaviour “threatens and intimidates” other visitors to the site.

Chair of the Committee David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) said: “Some of these orders have been difficult to police in the past, but this is just for a certain area – it should be easier to bring resources in if and when appropriate.”

Coun Alan Wainwright (Lab, Tong) said: “It is sad when we as a Council have got to the point where we have to propose this as other remedies have not worked. I don’t think we are using a sledgehammer here – we are trying to protect normal people from this outrageous behaviour.”

Coun John Pennington (Con, Bingley) said: “We are trying to protect people from injury – sometimes the people we are trying to protect don’t accept that.

“It has been mentioned that people jump from bridges – it won’t be long before there is a serious injury. And we hear about people smoking weed and people throwing stones at ducks – what is society coming to?”

Members unanimously voted to begin the consultation into the new order.