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

The Wharfe at Ilkley on a normal dayThe Wharfe at Ilkley on a normal day
The Wharfe at Ilkley on a normal day
Residents of Ilkley described seeing teenagers arriving 'laden with booze' before a dispersal order was imposed on the town today.

Thousands of people spent the day at the River Wharfe at Ilkley and the neighbouring villages of Burley-in-Wharfedale and Addingham.

Police were forced to issue the dispersal order at 4pm after reports of a fight between groups of youths at the river.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The order is in place for the next 48 hours and anyone who breaks its terms can face up to three months in prison. Officers also have the power to take children under 16 back to their homes.

A tombstoner pictured at the top of the Swing BridgeA tombstoner pictured at the top of the Swing Bridge
A tombstoner pictured at the top of the Swing Bridge

The Swing Bridge is closed until June 26 for non-residents after an 'incident' near the Wharfe and the National Police Air Service helicopter was called out.

The pebble beaches and East Holmes Field were described as a 'disaster zone' by local resident Andrew Dobson, who filmed a live video of the crowds on the recreation ground after they had been moved on from the riverside.

Mr Dobson discovered barbecues, abandoned towels, beer bottles and thousands of nitrous oxide canisters when walking around the area later in the evening - and even saw people asking police on duty if they could light barbecues.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He saw nine police vehicles around the river while he was attending a boot camp at Ilkley Rugby Club.

"There's rubbish everywhere - I can see tents, barbecues under the trees, I've never seen anything like it. It's disgraceful. The pebble beach has been cleared."

Other Ilkley residents responded to recount instances of anti-social behaviour they had witnessed, including:-

- A woman who saw teenagers 'laden with booze' arriving by train at Ilkley Station

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

- One witness saw a drug deal taking place next to an ice cream van

- A man encountered a youth from Manchester who was running away from the police wearing only swimming shorts

- Parents picking children up from Ghyll Royd School in Burley-in-Wharfedale who were forced to wait in traffic while visitors blocked a roundabout to unload inflatables and crates of beer from their cars

- Around 1,000 people gathered at the river in Burley and 100 cars were left 'abandoned' on Leather Bank

- Human excrement was left on paths

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

- Residents were told by police officers that groups had travelled 'long distances' to get to Ilkley

Burley resident Rob Collins said: "There have been groups of teens and young adults descending on the area with comments from people that public transport has been packed and people not wearing masks either.

"There were reported issues a number of weeks ago in the press over the state of the area and these last few weeks there have been meetings with local councillors and police over action plans and they were supposedly ready to be put in place.

Sadly today has proven that the measures in place fell flat. There have been kids diving off bridges and a mass brawl that the police have broken up at 4pm which has resulted in the dispersal order.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I am a resident of Burley and live down by the river bordering Leather Bank. After speaking with the police today and raising concerns about a mass of cars abandoned outside of Ghyll Royd School and my wife being threatened whilst trying to get into school the police stated 'what do you want us to do'?

"There are over 100 cars abandoned on the road by Ghyll Royd School and 1,000 people by the riverside. The police advised they cannot send someone to wait next to the cars, only when someone reports it when it’s likely to be too late. The police are aware of people travelling sizeable distances to come here.

"In the evening the riverside is still packed as I have walked down to look. There is rubbish everywhere and human excrement on the paths as people have nowhere to go to the toilet. We are expecting chaos tomorrow in Burley due to the Ilkley dispersal order and the school have asked the police for help."

What is the action plan for Ilkley?

There has already been trouble at the Wharfe this summer, with large groups gathering on hot days, extensive littering and barbecue use, 'tombstoning' from bridges and fighting all reported in May and June.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Friends of Ilkley Riverside Parks met with Bradford Council and Ilkley Town Council on June 8 for a summit to discuss a crackdown, and the police have also been in dialogue with both councils.

A local businessman even described the riverside area as 'a no-go zone' during warm weather and claimed its reputation is deterring families from moving to the town.

The solutions implemented following the meeting were that police and park wardens would patrol the river and neighbouring East Holmes Field to enforce by-laws which ban the use of disposable barbecues and to tackle public drinking and drug use. Youth workers will also engage with teenagers seen causing trouble.

There will also be daily bin collections on busy days, and larger bins will be introduced to cope with increased demand. Bradford Council will provide gloves, bags and safety equipment for local volunteers who undertake litter picks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Videos of cars parked inconsiderately and illegally on streets near the Wharfe were widely shared on social media on the May Bank Holiday weekend, and the police will now work with Bradford Council to introduce new traffic measures.

Additional parking restrictions have been put in place on Denton Road and there will be a consultation on long-term changes to regulations affecting parking near the Swing Bridge.

Friends of Ilkley Riverside Parks chair Ed Duguid believes the problems have been steadily worsening in recent years - and that they were exacerbated by 'lockdown fever' in May.

"There have been increasing numbers of people coming to the river for several years now. It can be overwhelming and an unpleasant experience. We see this behaviour from a broad range of ages - mostly mid-teens to early 20s, but also from some families who just seem to let their kids wander off. Last year we did a survey and found that about 80 per cent of visitors were coming from outside of Ilkley.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The parking measures on Denton Road had a knock-on effect elsewhere, which was frustrating for residents, and there needs to be consultation.

"They do intend to extend the double yellow lines, as the illegal parking is very dangeorus for pedestrians and cyclists."

Mr Duguid also points out that the river beaches and East Holmes Field are covered by by-laws applicable to all of Bradford Council's public parks. Barbecues and fires are banned from these areas, and on nearby Ilkley Moor there is a Public Spaces Protection Order which prohibits their use.

"People bring disposable barbecues and then leave them there, or put hot embers in bins. They leave their detritus lying around and just aren't very responsible. The barbecues burn the grass and they are a fire risk.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We have issues with anti-social behaviour which is generated by drinking and drug use. People then lose their sense of proportion and there is no social distancing. The beaches were rammed, kids were queuing up to jump off the bridge and blocking it. They are either silly or aggressive when challenged.

"The police face similar issues up at the Cow and Calf, so their resources are split."