Angry residents call for a total alcohol ban in a park in Harborough

Harborough District Council leader warned that such a dramatic ban would be unenforceable

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 1:08 pm

Angry residents are calling for a total alcohol ban in a troubled park in Market Harborough.

People living just feet away from Little Bowden Recreation Ground on Northampton Road are fed-up after months of anti-social behaviour fuelled by heavy drinking and drugs.

But Harborough District Council leader Phil King warned that such a dramatic ban would be unenforceable.

People living just feet away from Little Bowden Recreation Ground on Northampton Road are fed-up after months of anti-social behaviour fuelled by heavy drinking and drugs.
People living just feet away from Little Bowden Recreation Ground on Northampton Road are fed-up after months of anti-social behaviour fuelled by heavy drinking and drugs.

A dad who has lived near Little Bowden rec for over 20 years told the Harborough Mail: “We have to slap a ban on booze in our beautiful park full stop.

“We are sick to the back teeth here after weeks and weeks of trouble, especially at weekends.

“Drinking is at the root of just about all the mayhem and disorder in our park.

“We’ve got kids as young as 12 and 13 getting drunk on a regular basis,” said the man in his 50s.

“We see the kids and the teenagers carting in loads of beer on a Friday night or Saturday night.

“They then start tucking into vodka.

“A policewoman told me here the other day that she’d picked up 11 vodka bottles scattered about on the grass here in one go.

“The kids get roaring drunk, blast out music so loud you can hear it for miles and fights break out.

“We have had violence as well.

“I warned the police and council a while ago that someone would get seriously hurt unless this situation was tackled.

“And then we had the young man stabbed in Britannia Walk just a fortnight or so ago.

“Alcohol has no place in Little Bowden rec,” said the former Royal Navy electrical engineer.

“We all like a beer or two – and I’m no different having served in the navy.

“But if you want a drink then head to your local pub or do it in your own back garden.

“We’ve got a smashing park here - and it’s for children to enjoy the playground and walkers and families to make the most of.

“Drugs are being openly dealed and yobs are using bushes and trees near the primary school as a loo because the toilet block closes early.

“The stink from the human filth when it’s hot is disgusting,” said the father-of-one.

“On the positive side I appreciated the opportunity to go out and talk to police officers when they came along and held a beat surgery.

“The police do seem to understand the scale of our crisis here more now but the council has to step up and step forward too.

“I won’t be satisfied – and a lot of my neighbours feel the same way – until we see alcohol banned from Little Bowden rec.”

The fuming ex-serviceman is being backed up by a former police officer who also lives near the park.

She told the Mail: “Drink is a huge issue.

“The kids get their hands on everything from beer and lager to cider and vodka.

“And they then proceed to get drunk and fight with each other, threaten each other,” said the former Army combat medic.

“I’m at the end of my tether – and a lot of other people here are too.

“The police have got to crack down on the sheer amount of booze being drank here every week.”

But Cllr Phil King told the Mail: “People have raised the possibility of imposing a ban on alcohol at Little Bowden rec with us before.

“It could be done in theory.

“But how would we enforce it?

“It’s just not practical.

“We would need the ability to constantly police and patrol the park.

“And as a small rural local authority we just haven’t got the resources to do that.

“I do understand why this issue is being brought up.

“But I just can’t see how it could be made to work,” said Cllr King.

“The police do already have the powers to confiscate people’s alcohol if they are misbehaving.

“So be warned – if you get dead drunk and cause trouble then firm action will be taken.”

Cllr Peter James, who represents Little Bowden on Harborough council, said: “Little Bowden is a controlled drinking zone.

“We have to be careful about trying to impose a blanket ban on alcohol because that would stop anyone fancying a glass of wine with their picnic for example.

“We do have to tackle all of the trouble that we’ve had in the park over the last few months.

“But we have to take this step by step,” said Cllr James, a Liberal Democrat.

“I want to see more controlled drinking zone signs go up.

“I’m also still keen to introduce an emergency plan which would result in the police imposing dispersal orders.

“I’d also like to see the park closed at a certain time at night so that anyone still there has to leave and the noise is stopped.

“We’ve had revellers in there till 3am at times and that’s not acceptable.”

Insp Jim Purdie, the head of Harborough police, is vowing to work with residents to stamp out anti-social behaviour at Little Bowden rec.

“We are aware of the concerns which have been raised and we are working with you, our residents, and listening to these concerns.

“It is our priority to tackle these concerns and we are continuing proactive patrols in the area, including in the parks at peak times.

“We will also be holding beat surgeries in the parks at peak times to allow us to continue to talk with you about your concerns and the approaches we are taking,” said Insp Purdie earlier this month.

“We will take action where it is required and will continue to enforce use of orders such as Public Spaces Protection Orders where required to help keep our area safe.

“Officers, along with our partners, also continue to work with young people to raise awareness of the dangers and harm which incidents can cause and to show where help and support can be accessed if needed.

“In the Market Harborough area, we have been working hard over the past year in relation to drug offences and specifically County Lines (drugs gangs), including working with the British Transport Police, and have seen success in terms of reducing this offending in the area,” said Insp Purdie.

“We have also seen a reduction in anti-social behaviour incidents.

“However, as always, we very much continue to work to address the issues being raised.

“We ask that you continue to work with us and continue to report your concerns to us as well as to provide information to us in relation to any criminal activity you are aware of.”

You can contact police by calling 101 or visiting www.leics.police.ukYou can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.