SPECIAL powers brought in to combat anti-social behaviour such as drinking, drug use and “tombstoning” around Ilkley Riverside are no longer in force, Bradford Council admitted today.

The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) was established in May 2021, covering Riverside Gardens, East Holmes Field and West Holmes Field, following complaints about behaviour in the area.

Problems hit a high over the summer periods when people would leap from the suspension bridge into the River Wharfe, a dangerous practice known as tombstoning.

The order gave council wardens the power to hand out £100 fines to anyone participating in anti-social behaviour.

But with summer just arriving, Bradford Council said that the PSPO has been “allowed to expire”.

The decision has led to shock among ward councillors, who said they had not been consulted on the decision.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering Ilkley Riverside (which covers Riverside Gardens, East Holmes Field and West Holmes Field) has been allowed to expire.

“After some consideration we feel the conditions have changed to the degree that this level of Order is no longer required.”

The spokesperson added that the order was taken out during the Covid-19 pandemic when “there was a significant rise in the number of people gathering in the area and an increase in reports of anti-social behaviour.

“The order prohibited a number of behaviours, including behaving in a way that caused harassment, alarm or distress; drunken behaviour or refusal to stop drinking; being under the influence of controlled drugs; causing an obstruction or jumping from the footbridge; lighting fires or barbecues; littering and camping overnight in tents, caravans or campervans or sleeping outdoors overnight.

“Levels of anti-social behaviour have decreased over the last three years, as numbers gathering in the area have dropped since the end of the pandemic, which means action can be scaled down.”

The spokesperson said that the decision to allow the PSPO to expire will be reviewed again in six months’ time — but this is after the summer, when the complained-about behaviour is more prevalent.

Ilkley Gazette: Litter left at the riverside in Ilkley during the summer monthsLitter left at the riverside in Ilkley during the summer months (Image: submitted)

They said: “In addition, some parts of the order duplicated police powers, blurring the lines of jurisdiction.

“We will continue working with the police to tackle any anti-social behaviour.

“The annual warm weather plan which spans the official bathing period of May to September, will remain in place. There is also clear signage on the swing bridge warning about the dangers of jumping from it. The decision to allow the PSPO to expire will be reviewed in six months.

“Only a small number of fines were issued as most people responded well when council or Police officers engaged with them and offered advice.”

But Councillors Andrew Loy and David Nunns (Conservative, Ilkley) said in a joint statement: “Ward councillors were not consulted about this decision, so it has come as a shock and is incredibly frustrating.

“For years, we have been arguing that the PSPO was the right approach, but needed more resources to enforce it properly. Instead, the council now appears to have given up completely and this decision seems to be more about cost-cutting than what is best for Ilkley.

“We will continue to make Ilkley’s case for additional resources and powers. We already have a meeting arranged with the council officer in charge of parks, when we will be pressing for sufficient litter-picking and bin-emptying.”

They added that police will now be fully responsible for tackling anti-social behaviour, and urged residents to report any incidents by ringing 101.

They said: "It is vitally important that everything is reported to the police, so that they are aware of the scale of the problem and can allocate resources accordingly.”

Ilkley Gazette: Busy scenes at the River Wharfe in Ilkley during the summer monthsBusy scenes at the River Wharfe in Ilkley during the summer months (Image: submitted)

A public consultation was held ahead of the order being implemented in May 2021, which 571 local people took part in, with 82 per cent of respondents in favour of the proposals.

The consultation also found that 65 per cent of people who responded said they felt either “unsafe or very unsafe” at Riverside during hot weather periods.

And 45 per cent said alcohol and drug use in the Riverside area was “a very big problem” while 80 per cent said littering by people visiting the area was a very big problem.