Public Meeting regarding Olney’s Parking, Rec, alcohol and substance abuse

Notes on the Extra Ordinary Meeting held on Tuesday 26th July

by Ron Hall

Ben Brown, Olney’s Mayor, briefly went through the topics on the printed list that was available, some of these were picked up from a variety of sources including the great deal of emails that had been received.

 

The Public mentioned some of their issues and probems on the rec, a brief summary of the publics comments follows:

 

Options put forward by the public:

 

The first comment was that over one year ago the problems regarding the rec, parking and anti-social behaviour had been brought to the attention of the police etc., nothing seems to have been done.

 

Close the rec down: This could be done on various weekends, or even weeks, possibly weather permitting.

 

The Sunday times article had brought people to the town. The river quality was very poor and should be used to stop/put off people who arrive regarding health and safety issues.

 

A van he had seen with lots of Industrial sized gas canisters had been seen in the back of a van. Each costing around it was estimated £35. This was thought to be brought here by dealers, who filled balloons with the gas and sold them. Also smaller canisters were all over the place.

 

Suggestions: More complaints to the police were necessary to produce a community review. This could lead to a Community Protection Order … giving more powers to ‘police’ the area, possibly by others.

 

It was strongly suggested that we should “Take back the Town”

 

It was mentioned that cars were getting “keyed” in the town.

 

Beer bottles on the grass and the resulting fire risk was mentioned..

 

Again the question was raised: “Can you close the rec down?”

A Right of way goes across the rec/field meant this was a problem to enforce.

 

Other local parishes had been contacted with similar problems, and if any effective methods were found these would be looked into.

 

The Question of Who owns the rugby club car park, was asked. Would it be an idea to shut it down?

If not could we charge for it?

The answer was the town seems to own it. Shutting it down affects everyone, good locals as well as the weekend crowd who only come if the weather is good.

Charging for it as well would basically only affect locals, or push cars onto West Street for free parking.

 

Police PCSO visits were ‘low key’. Did not do enough. If BBQs were set up they just said be careful to the people having the BBQ. It was pointed out that this is very difficult to manage when the BBQs were already set up.

 

Later it was put forward about the local shops not selling bbqs or alcohol on certain days.

This would affect honest locals and if the weather was bad possibly no one who causes these problems would turn up anyway.

 

It was pointed out that shutting the Rec using more legal methods could or would affect events like the Fireworks Display, River Fest, Raft Race and the Duck Race – they would basically have to be cancelled.

 

Entry points to the Rec could be manned and people informed having alcohol/bbqs etc. that this was illegal.

As noted earlier it is too late when a BBQ is setup and people are having a wine/beer on the rec. It would be difficult to manage at this stage.

 

Phoning 101 had taken one resident a 20 minutes wait to get through …. Could Olney have a Special number for informing of BBQs etc?

 

Parking: An incident of a car blocking a drive was mentioned, and the dangerous speed of drivers concerned the resident.

 

River restrictions were again brought up: Diseases caught in the river were dangerous, but how can you tell kids if they are already jumping in.

 

Better visual signage and more signage is needed. Visual display signs warning of the danger with pictorial images and possibly a large red cross on them instead of wordy signs would be a better idea.

Signs in place can’t be taken down as they have been ‘verified’ by the authorities and make it legal to fine people.

 

It was said the community was the only answer to address the problems and volunteers were needed to do so.

 

Parking offences: re parking on path…. There was some confusion over whether you can or can’t park on the path? Someone stated: No one has been fined for bad parking in East street.

 

A lot of problems is Weather dependant – No one turns up if the weather is not good enough so all the restrictions will just fall on the locals. But a two week trial might be a good thing to deter visitors to the rec and car park.

 

Some restrictive notices only cover alcohol and not bbqs it was stated.

 

Training for volunteers was brought up which would be costly. Also the various needs for insurance would be a cost. Due diligence. Risk Assessments etc….

 

A Photographer on site and or a drone, could be an answer to spot law breakers, but could be dangerous for the operators. Also their licence may not allow them to fly over people. The Police have a Drone unit it was mentioned

 

A right of way is something you cannot close. If you apply for a Permissive Path you can close it down legally when you want.

 

Social media should be used more to get the message across.

 

Talk about what could be done at weekends to stop bad behaviour at weekends brought the comment that we are now in School holidays time.

So the problems, and costs to fix, would be for a full week and not just weekends for the following months.

 

For the next meeting, because no police were invited or turned up to this one, it was decided to invite the

Police – but which officer and at what level caused some discussion.

 

The public part of the meeting closed and the Council then debated the finding of this meeting and what to do.

Half of the public remained but eventually filtered away to half a dozen at the end.

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