Revealed: How ban on skateboarders in Norwich city centre would also apply to children with scooters and rollerskates

The city council wants to ban skateboarding in places such as the Memorial Gardens. Photo: Steve Ada

The city council wants to ban skateboarding in places such as the Memorial Gardens. Photo: Steve Adams

Children riding through Norwich city centre on scooters or roller skates would be breaking the law if a bye-law to ban skateboarders is introduced, council leaders have admitted.

But council bosses insist they have no plans to drag young people to court, other than those causing damage to city landmarks.

Norwich City Council's cabinet controversially agreed in June to recommend that the council make a bye-law which would ban skateboarding across much of the city centre.

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.

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The council says the damage has been caused by skateboarders, but it has emerged the bye-law would also apply to people - of any age - on scooters and rollerskates.

The council's ultimate sanction is the option to prosecute through the courts, although the council says it will be sensible about using the new powers - focusing solely on those spotted causing damage.

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Keith Driver, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: 'Some of the skateboarders told us that the damage to the war memorial could have been caused by other groups, including those on scooters. So, we took their comments on board and included this as part of the consultation.

'Linked to this, the legal wording of the bye-law means it applies equally to skateboarders as well as the likes of scooter users.

'But the very essence of the bye-law is all about proportionality. What it does is give us flexibility to use legal powers to stop the wilful damage and misuse of listed buildings and structures that are deeply cherished by the majority of people.

'As cabinet members in favour of the bye-law, we did not remotely go down the road of seeking to put one in place to focus on anyone other than those who wilfully damage and disrespect listed buildings and structures that are deeply cherished by the majority of people.

'I can assure residents that the bye-law would only be applied to those who flout the law. If we are granted permission to apply the bye-law it will be used proportionately, responsibly and with complete common sense.'

The council has insisted, if the bye-law does come in, it would adopt a 'softly-softly' approach. They say people would initially be told they were breaking a bye-law and asked to move on.

But, if people persisted, then the council would have the option of prosecution through the magistrates court, with fines The courts would have the power to issue anti-social behaviour orders on those convicted.

Skateboarders have previously accused the council of taking a heavy-handed approach and said the authority, which provided a £300,000 skate park at Eaton Park, would be better off helping skaters set something up nearer the city centre, such as underneath Magdalen Street flyover.

The bye-law would cover a large part of the city centre. It includes the War Memorial, Memorial Gardens, St Peter Mancroft, Gaol Hill leading to London Street, The Forum, City Hall and Hay Hill.

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.

Consultation is due to run until Friday, October 17, but does not specifically ask whether people are in favour of the bylaw.

It only asks for views on whether the area covered should be larger or smaller, although there is a box for any other comments.

The council said that was because the council cabinet had already agreed the principle of a bye-law and the question now was its scope.

Responses to the consultation will be presented to the city council's cabinet and full council in November. It would then need to be advertised for four weeks, after which the Secretary of State would agree whether it could be introduced.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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