6ft 6in fence for vandal-hit Dales club

The Dacre Banks bowling green this summer. (S)

The Dacre Banks bowling green this summer. (S)

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A village bowling club which has been plagued by “mindless” crime is to be enclosed in a full wire-mesh fence – 6ft 6in high – in an attempt to keep vandals out.

The extreme measure, at the Dacre Banks bowling club, has been approved by council planners in Harrogate after pleas from anxious committee members.

They say they have been plagued by vandals for years, with 11 outstanding criminal incidents, from smashed windows to broken benches, still being investigated by police.

“Within the last four years we’ve experienced a number of incidents of vandalism by youths who have gathered at the bowls pavilion,” said club secretary Paul Tolworthy at a planning committee meeting in Harrogate on Tuesday. “Broken windows, tampering with irrigation, broken bottles and cigarette ends.

“We’ve looked at various security measures to try and overcome this problem. Unfortunately, there’s not a suitable place to put CCTV.

“The current fence is old and broken in several places. It’s in need of replacement but we don’t want to replace it with a similar one which gets broken down again. We feel this is necessary to provide the security we need. It’s not ideal, but we don’t have another answer to stop this happening.”

The pro-mesh panel fencing, 6ft 6in (2m) high, is to replace existing timber and wire fencing around the site at a cost of £12,500, with the help of a £10,000 lottery grant.

Dacre Parish Council had raised concerns about theproposed height and style of the fence, considered to be more appropriate to an industrial site and not in keeping with the AONB.

And there was debate in the council chamber before the plans were approved, with concerns about the look of the “hideous” fencing.

“This is too simplistic,” said Coun John Batt, (Con, Knaresborough East). “I can’t support this suggestion - it ought to be rejected outright.”

And Coun Pat Marsh, (Lib Dem, Hookstone), said: “I do think you need support to protect this fabulous bowling green, but this isn’t the answer. It’s alien to this part of our district.

“I think further investigation is needed, whether it be cameras, or lights, or a different kind of fence.”

But Coun Cliff Trotter, (Con, Stray), said: “This is the only way to keep these young vandals out of this area. You don’t make bowling greens overnight.

“It’s happening at grounds all over North Yorkshire. Fences like this may be all there is to keep them out.”

And Coun Janet Law, (Lib Dem, Starbeck), said: “If they have been looking at this for 18 months and they think this is the best way, then I’m in support.

“In my ward, the bowling green was practically dug up. It took an awfully long time to grow it back.”

The measures were passed with 10 in favour and three voting against.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Tolworthy of Wilsill said the club had tried to think of any other solution.

“We don’t want to do this, it’s not something we’re happy doing,” he said. “But we feel we have to.

“We’ve had windows smashed, metal and wooden benches broken, an irrigation system tampered with. The green is strewn with broken bottles and cigarette ends.

“We’ve had notices on the notice board burned. One day, that pavilion could end up going up in flames. It’s mindless, the damage they are doing.

“It’s costing us money all the time and we can’t see an end to it. This fence is the final solution.”