Sunday, 26 September 2021

CCTV could be used to catch visitors who spoil riverside spot

CCTV could be used to catch visitors who spoil riverside spot

FINES could be imposed on people who treat a Henley beauty spot as a public toilet.

Town councillors say there is an ongoing problem with human waste being left in grass and bushes in Mill and Marsh Meadows and they need “tougher” measures to solve it.

In April, the Henley Standard reported that the meadows was left strewn with rubbish after hundreds visited on a hot weekend.

Overflowing bin bags were found piled high in Marsh Meadows along with used barbecues, bottles, food, bones and plastic drifting on the River Thames.

Resident Maureen Dougall, who lives in Station Road, also said that people had been urinating on the meadow, in bushes and on the edge of her garden, as well as throwing toilet paper around.

There are public toilets at the pavilion in Mill Meadows which are free to use.

At a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee on Tuesday last week, councillors suggested fining those responsible, installing CCTV or asking for increased police patrols.

Councillor Sarah Miller added: “I think we have got to be tougher on this, whether it’s CCTV or signs saying the toilets are up the road. What about fines?”

Councillor Ian Reissmann said the town’s police community support officers, who are part-funded by the council, should be asked to visit the area at certain times of the day.

But Mayor Glen Lambert, who has regular meetings with Henley police sergeant Neil Anns, replied: “They have stepped up patrols and not caught anyone. If they do they will make them clean it up in the first instance.”

Councillors also warned that many visitors to Marsh Meadows were ignoring a ban on barbecues.

A temporary ban was issued last month over fears that fires and barbecues could cause the tinder dry grass to go up in flames, while even items such as discarded drinks cans and glass bottles could magnify the sun’s rays and ignite dry grass or plants.

The council also hired Shaun Roberts, a private enforcement officer based in the town, until the end of summer to ensure the ban is adhered to. Mr Roberts wears a body camera to deter abusive behaviour.

Councillors said that while Mr Roberts has had some success in asking visitors to put out their barbecues, many were still ignoring the ban and even being abusive to residents who ask them to stop.

Cllr Evans said: “The barbecue signs have been knocked down, people are barbecuing down there and he needs some help. We need to think of having pairs or even groups of three people because people will ignore the signs.

“We need policing for it because people are scared of some idiot barbecuing under a tree that’s tinder dry. We’ve got to do something — we are being terribly polite.”

Councillor Sara Abey added: “I’m not very comfortable with us or residents approaching them if they are being aggressive. Anyone tackling it needs to be trained in a certain way.

“It will take time to get funds and policing in place and by then this summer will be done. Can we get more effective signage in place?”

But Cllr Hinton said that Mr Roberts’s patrols were effective. She said: “Everyone is receptive to Shaun, even if they aren’t receptive to members of the public.”

She added: “The barbecue situation is a work in progress, with the toilets situation I don’t know if there’s been as much progress.”

• Barbecues were banned on Marsh Meadows in 2013 over fears that they posed a fire risk. It was initially a temporary ban but was made permanent because of complaints about scorch marks on the ground. In 2014 the council installed several metal-plated tree stumps where barbecues could be used.

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