September 17 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
A byelaw could be brought in to ban skateboarding in much of Norwich city centre, because of damage council bosses say skaters have caused to the war memorial and City Hall.
If the local law is brought in, then skateboarders who continue to skate within the area it applies could be taken to court or given police cautions.
Council bosses say they are having to consider the action because of damage caused to the War Memorial Gardens and the base of the war memorial, which is a Grade II listed monument.
They say the steps outside the Gaol Hill entrance to City Hall and the plinth at the base of the clock tower in St Giles Street have also been damaged.
Officers say the damage consists of deep incisions in the stonework, with “fairly large chips” taken out of it and the edges eroded.
But skateboarders have accused the council of taking too heavy-handed an approach.
The byelaw would cover a large part of the city centre. It includes the memorial gardens, Hay Hill, Gaol Hill, The Forum, Castle Meadow, London Street, Exchange Street, St Andrews Street and the gardens at Norwich Castle.
The council says it has had to go beyond the areas where damage has been caused to cover other locations where the skaters might head.
When the war memorial was revamped, the council provided a £300,000 purpose-built skate park in Eaton Park, to encourage skaters to stay away from the city centre.
But the council says some skateboarders have continued to skate on the war memorial and despite talking to them and putting up signs urging them not to skate, they still do.
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “The official skatepark we had built at Eaton Park in 2010 is very well used.
“But unfortunately, there are still those who persist in skateboarding in the city centre and have shown little regard for the war memorial and its gardens, despite our efforts to address the problem in a low-key way.
“It seems especially poignant that, 100 years on from the start of the First World War, and as custodians of important heritage sites like the war memorial, that we do all we can to protect such treasured assets.”
But Sam Avery, who runs Drug Store skate shop in Pottergate and was a member of the Skatepark Consultation Group, which helped refine the design of the Eaton Park skate park, said the council was going too far.
He said: “If it was just the war memorial which the byelaw applied to, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I don’t see why they need to extend it to a bunch of other places as well. “What’s going to happen? We’ll end up with a load of 14-year-olds getting police cautions and I don’t see what that is going to achieve. It’s heavy-handed.”
Mr Avery said that good as the Eaton Park skate park is, skaters, inline skaters and BMX riders - the people it was built for - often struggle to use it. He said young children with everything from plastic bikes to radio controlled cars play on it.
He added: “The other thing with Eaton Park, and we said this at the time, is that it quite a way out. I have previously said to the council that, if they don’t want people skating on the City Hall steps, then they should look at doing something under the Magdalen Street flyover.
“It’s just wasteland at the moment and I think it would only cost a couple of thousand pounds to put concrete and maybe some blocks down there. People could add their own stuff and it could become a community project.”
The controlling cabinet at Norwich City Council will decide at a meeting on Wednesday next week whether to recommend that the council brings in the byelaw.
If it does, it would be made under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972 and would prohibit skateboarding in the designated area.
If the full council then agrees to the byelaw proposal it would have to be advertised for four weeks before being submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation.
The council says it would adopt a “soft approach” to enforcement action, using its own enforcement officers and police community support officers.
Initially, people would be told they were breaking a byelaw and asked to move on. But, if people persisted, then the council would have the option of prosecution through the magistrates court.
The courts would have the power to issue anti-social behaviour orders on those convicted.
• Do you think the byelaw to stop skateboarding is a good idea? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.