No easy answer to problems blighting Barnard Castle Demesnes
THERE is no simple solution to the problems of anti-social behaviour on a much-treasured Barnard Castle beauty spot.
That was the message from a public meeting called to discuss a range of issues raised by residents living adjacent to the Lower Demesnes.
Cars “pulling doughnuts”, speeding, abusive language, littering, drunkenness and drug use were some of the allegations levelled at young motorists who take their often modified vehicles onto the grass.
The packed meeting, held at the Woodleigh building, on Scar Top, heard residents voice their concerns to town councillors and police.
One said: “Some of the things I have witnessed and been subjected to are appalling.
“There are young people of this town speeding towards the play park, hanging out of the windows.
“I have seen as many as 20-plus cars on there and been subjected to abuse when I have asked them to pick litter up.”
Another added: “It is a problem of policing the young people. It is a policing problem.
“We have to police ourselves in this town.”
A third added: “I am frightened there is going to be an accident, given the speed those cars come off the Demesnes.”
John Watson, a former town and district councillor, said it was his understanding that under the terms of the deeds governing the Demesnes and conservation area regulations, cars and parking were simply not allowed on the Demesnes.
Town councillor Judi Sutherland disputed this interpretation of the deeds but said she would contact Durham County Council’s planning department to check out the conservation area rules.
Sgt Simon Rogers told the meeting: “There is no simple solution to this. If you stop cars, people will park somewhere else. Whatever action you take, you are going to get a reaction and you may create a problem for someone else.
“I don’t think it is just a policing problem. We have a part to play, but so does everyone else.”
He said with just three PCs and four PCSOs to cover the whole of Teesdale, policing the Demesnes could only form a small part of the work expected of officers.
Responsibility for the Demesnes currently rests with Durham County Council.
However, Barnard Castle Town Council is currently negotiating with the county authority for the transfer of the Demesnes to local control.
Discussing what action could be taken, erecting bollards was discounted due to the dangers posed to children sledging down the hill during winter.
Closing the Demesnes to traffic at night and during the winter months was another idea raised.
The most popular idea was to install a CCTV camera at the barrier entrance to the Demesnes to act as both a deterrent and to gather evidence should incidents arise.
Looking to the future, Barnard Castle mayor Cllr John Blissett, who chaired the meeting, said once the town council had taken over the Demesnes, a revamp of the play area would be undertaken.
Cllr Roger Peat, chairman of the services committee, said the planting of wildflowers on the bank was also planned.