Bilton residents call for increased police presence and CCTV to tackle anti-social behaviour as by-election looms

More CCTV, an increased police presence and a crackdown on parking issues - these are just some of the things residents in Bilton are calling for ahead of the by-election next week.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 1:28 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 1:30 pm

We asked members of the Bilton Community Group on Facebook what issues they were most passionate about tackling and what solutions they’d like to see in place and the suggestions were almost unanimous.

One resident, Andrew Hart, who owns The Red Box card shop and Post Office, commented: “Regular police presence on Bilton Lane, King Edward’s Drive and Woodfield Road plus connecting roads.

The mural on the Iron Bridge was vandalised just days after it was completed.

“Plus visits, out of school hours, to our play areas along with the dog wardens.

“A crackdown on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to minors in Harrogate. A return of road sweepers. PCSO outside local schools to watch out for dangerous parking and driving.”

He says retailers in Bilton are looking to come together to take action against anti-social behaviour which he feels is a real problem in the area, especially around Bilton Lane, King Edward’s Drive and Woodfield Road - but there is some debate between residents about how serious the issue really is.

While residents in this particular area say crime is on the rise, others argue Bilton is still a very safe place to live.

Dani Paizis says anti-social behaviour in Bilton is a smaller problem than it seems.

However, there have been a number of reports of incidents in the area in recent months, with the latest occurring at Korner Kabin on King Edward’s Drive last week when a group of young people are said to have stolen alcohol from the store.

Owner Vicky Kataria said he had reported the incident to the police and has urged anyone with any information to come forwards to ensure this does not happen to any other businesses or properties in the area.

Police are also now appealing for witnesses after a street fight broke out on Knox Chase on Friday, April 16.

Andrew Hart told the Harrogate Advertiser ‘enough is enough’ after he also discovered the front of the Post Office ‘splattered’ with drinks and the bus shelter ‘littered in empty drinks bottles’ earlier this week and says he believes more needs to be done to stamp out the issue.

It comes after a striking mural on Bilton’s Iron Bridge, which crosses over to Claro Road, was vandalised last week.

The mural was painted by Yorkshire artist Emma Garness, who was commissioned by bridge owners Network Rail, and features ideas contributed by local schools, including a fox and an oak tree, as well as painting the cherry blossom on the Stray, in a bid to spread some positivity to the area.

But it didn’t take long for the mural to be targeted by vandals, who carved a heart and the letter ‘K’ into it just days after it was completed.

Sarah Cantlow was walking past the bridge when she noticed the damage and decided to upload a picture of it to the Bilton Community Group, where residents were quick to express their disappointment.

Sarah, who lives close to the Iron Bridge, has been walking past and checking the mural regularly and noticed the damage last Wednesday.

She, along with some of the other residents in the Facebook group, is now calling for more CCTV in the area to deter anyone looking to cause more damage.

She told the Harrogate Advertiser: “First I knew about it was when I saw the artist Emma on Saturday - she is so lovely.

“On Sunday afternoon my daughter and I watched her paint most of the afternoon and my daughter got lots of tips from her. She was so caring and happy to talk.

“While we where chatting it was so nice to hear loads of people saying how beautiful it is, and how it brightens the bridge up, but how sad it will be as we knew it would not take long to be vandalised.

“I feel that we should have CCTV cameras on the bridge.”

Other locals have backed the calls, with one commenting: “The bridge needs a camera this is disgusting.”

Most residents who shared their views in response to the Harrogate Advertiser’s question on Facebook said they agreed with the calls for a higher police presence, more cameras and a tougher approach to crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

Other issues raised included the need for more bins, particularly dog waste bins on the Greenway, and the need to tackle parking issues at various sites around Bilton.

One resident, Linda Rushworth, commented: “More doggy bins on Greenway. Not enough for the amount of dogs down on Greenway.”

Claire Walsh added: “More doggy bins around St. John’s, like at the end of alleyways.”

Sarah Harrison said parking issues by the cycle path at the end of Bilton Lane were one of the biggest issues she felt needed tackling, while Keith Wilkinson suggested: “Enforce the parking restrictions on Bilton Lane and double the size of the car park, two hour limit on stays and an Honesty Box - inviting £1 minimum - and a new/enlarged waste bin for the car park.”

But one Bilton resident, Dani Paisiz, has hit back at claims that anti-social behaviour is plaguing the area.

She says she is not doubting there is a problem in some parts of Bilton but that the picture is not representative of the whole community.

Dani said: “I have no doubt it is going on in some areas of Bilton and has caused problems for some residents which is of course terrible and I wouldn’t want that for anybody.

“But it is a very large area and I don’t believe these issues are representative of the majority of us who live here - it certainly isn’t representive of mine and my family’s life here for the last seven years.”

She says she agrees that any instances of crime or anti-social behaviour do need to be tackled and an increased police presence on Bilton’s streets would not be a bad thing, but says it is important to be understanding of people’s circumstances and the hard times we are all currently living through.

Dani believes that reopening Bilton Youth Club and having more on offer for young people to do could be the answer.

She added: “This has been the hardest year of any of our lives so it is no surprise there has been a big rise in things like drug use and mental health problems.

“I think we should all be working together to help our young people and giving them things to do so they don’t resort to this kind of behaviour.”

Dani says it is important to her to stand up for her community and shout about everything Bilton has to offer.

She said: “We have great schools, great green spaces and wildlife and I just want to protect that.

“People are so quick to focus on the negatives but love and kindness outshine that and we have plenty here.”