This was the mess left behind after police had to move on huge groups of late-night revellers at parks in Harborough and Kibworth

The groups had to be broken up after noisy disturbances

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 1:03 pm

Huge groups of late-night revellers have had to be broken up by police at parks in Market Harborough and Kibworth after sparking noisy disturbances upsetting local people.

Officers have acted after dozens of youths and older people gathered at Little Bowden Recreation Ground on Northampton Road, Market Harborough, and at Warwick Road Recreation Ground in Kibworth Harcourt.

Furious residents have accused culprits of drinking heavily and smoking cannabis at Little Bowden park on both Monday night and last night amid a mini-heatwave as Covid lockdown rules begin to be lifted.

This was the mess left behind after police had to move on huge groups of late-night revellers at parks in Harborough and Kibworth

They have also posted pictures on social media of a sea of rubbish – beer bottles, cans, plastic and other waste – scattered across the sprawling popular park.

Today police are issuing urgent new calls for people to respect coronavirus restrictions still in place as well as the community as a whole.

Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough District Council, branded anti-social incidents over the last 48 hours “totally unacceptable”.

This afternoon Sgt Ryan Coleman, of Harborough police, said: “Prior to the easing of the Covid restrictions this week we began an operation in the local area to tackle the concerns regarding anti-social behaviour in the local parks and recreation grounds.

“We have certainly seen an increase in the number of people socialising in these areas since the beginning of the week.

“Due to the numbers of people this can become noisy and certainly later in the evening cause local residents some concerns.

“A number of officers were deployed to patrol the local areas over the last few nights and dispersed groups later in the evening who were being anti-social.”

He admitted rubbish was strewn about parks as outraged residents declared “broken glass, bottle tops and hidden bottles have been buried into the grass on the Rec” in Little Bowden.

“Due to the volume of people in these areas there is the inevitable issues of litter being left.

“However, we have had no reports of broken glass and bottles being buried in the ground,” said Sgt Coleman.

“While there is no specific ban on alcohol in the local parks, if someone’s behaviour due to alcohol consumption is concerning then we will deal with them appropriately.”

A number of people in Harborough have also been “dealt with” by police over drugs offences.

“Over recent weeks we have also dealt with a number of people for using and possessing controlled substances.

“Our efforts to ensure everyone feels safe will continue and have spoken to local residents about their concerns,” said Sgt Coleman.

“We ask that the public also help us by ensuring they continue to adhere to the Covid restrictions.

“We will continue to engage, explain, encourage and enforce the restrictions.

“In addition to our efforts we do ask that parents and guardians help us by ensuring their children abide by the restrictions and the importance of doing so.

“We want people to enjoy seeing friends and family again outdoors but not at the detriment of the wider community,” added Sgt Coleman.

Harborough police tweeted today that they were forced to take “drunk children” home as they urged parents to keep a closer eye on them.

“Parents, whilst we appreciate kids have been locked up most of the last year, please consider where they are and what they are doing.

“We have had to return drunk children home,” said police.

Cllr King told the Harborough Mail today: “I understand that people living near Little Bowden rec and Warwick Road park in Kibworth are very angry.

“I’ve seen teenagers aged from about 15 upwards getting together in Warwick Road park near me in Kibworth.

“So I do realise why people are letting off steam about this and why they are upset.

“Let me just stress that as a council we are not ignoring these problems and we are not turning a blind eye,” said the Harborough council chief.

“We will look again to see what more we can do with our Community Safety Partnership team to address these burning issues.

“Kids and young people have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic over the last year.

“They want to get out and about and see their mates again, have a good time in the great weather.

“But there is no excuse for drinking and perhaps taking drugs and going on to make a right old racket.

“There is no excuse for getting smashed off your face and brassing off hacked-off residents already sick and fed-up to the back teeth.

“We do not condone or accept that sort of activity one little bit.

“Disturbing people’s evenings and stopping them getting to sleep on a night is not on.

“I’d say to these people – have a good time by all means but don’t wreck other people’s time.

“Show some respect for goodness sake.

“Respect other people, respect the environment, respect your community – and, above all, respect yourselves,” said Cllr King.

“The police are doing their best to tackle this anti-social behaviour.

“They are committing a lot of resources to deal with it.

“But as I’ve said time and again what are the parents and carers of these young people doing?

“It’s up to them first and foremost to get a grip and stop their kids acting badly,” said Cllr King.

“These people are also risking increasing Covid transmissions by gathering in such big groups.

“We are finally starting to get on top of the coronavirus after over a year.

“None of us wants new rules and restrictions to be reimposed because a minority of the local community can’t control themselves.”

Cllr Peter James, the district council’s ward member for Little Bowden, told the Mail: “We have some planned criminal activity going on here – and we will not tolerate it.

“I will go over to Little Bowden park to have a look and talk to local people.

“I’ll also as a matter of urgency talk to police because this isn’t good enough,” said the Liberal Democrat councillor.

“We simply cannot have this sort of inexcusable behaviour going on at Little Bowden rec from now until September.

“Local people have had enough.

“The last thing they want are people behaving badly in the park all the way through the spring, summer and autumn.”

One fuming local woman said on Facebook today: “Like many of us, I'm looking forward to the end of lockdown.

“However, I never realised that I live near a park where clearly none of the restrictions apply!

“Little Bowden rec is again heaving with young people enjoying drinking openly in an alcohol-free zone & the not so subtle waft of cannabis.”

Another woman living near Little Bowden park said: “Dog Owners & Parents of young children.

“Please be aware broken glass, bottle tops and hidden bottles have been buried into the grass on the Rec this morning.”

A Harborough council spokesman said: “With lockdown restrictions starting to ease, and the recent fine weather, we appreciate that people are keen to get outdoors now that six people, or two households, can meet – socially distanced – in public spaces and private gardens.

“We have seen high numbers of people using our parks - and local police have an operation running to patrol parks and respond to concerns about anti-social behaviour or breaches to social distancing.

“We do have Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) in our parks.

“However, these do not prevent adults from drinking alcohol outdoors.

“Alcohol will be removed from people behaving irresponsibly - and this power has been used.

“Police will also confiscate alcohol from anyone under 18 years old, and young people who are under the influence of alcohol are taken home.”

He added: “We recognise that the higher usage of parks has an impact on litter and again we urge people to clear up and place rubbish in the bins provided – or if they are full take their litter home.

“More bins are being installed in the parks in the next few days to help with the demand. It is not acceptable to leave litter anywhere in our district.

“With police, we will continue to respond to all concerns and deal with matters proportionally.

“We want to see people enjoying our public spaces, but people must take responsibility for maintaining social distance, behaving responsibly, and ensuring they do not leave litter.”