Police in Bradley Stoke are appealing for information after a suspicious incident in which a 6m-high floodlight column at the town’s Brook Way Activity Centre was sawn through, causing it to fall onto the sports courts at the complex.
The felling of the floodlight column late on Tuesday 17th May follows an earlier incident late last year in which a cable supplying power to the six floodlights surrounding the courts was “maliciously” severed.
The two incidents follow continued friction between the youth club based at the centre and residents of neighbouring properties, who claim they have been blighted with increased levels of noise, light pollution (from the floodlights around the sports courts) and anti-social behaviour since Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) moved the youth club to the centre in 2009.
The toppling of the floodlight was followed by a further incident two nights later when a window of one nearby resident’s car was smashed with a brick.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police told The Journal:
“Police investigating damage to a lighting stand at the Brook Way Activity Centre on 17th May ask anyone with any information to contact them.”
“Officers have carried out house-to-house enquiries and examined CCTV footage from both the centre and private property nearby in connection with this incident and the smashing of a car window the following night.”
Asked about the outcome of investigations into the previous cable cutting incident, the spokesperson added:
“Police have followed all available lines of enquiry in connection with an earlier incident when cabling for the lights was cut without obtaining sufficient evidence for an arrest.”
Anyone with information about any of these incidents is asked to contact the neighbourhood team at Filton police station on 0845 456 7000. Alternatively contact the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 (they never ask your name or trace your call).
South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC) Anti-Social Behaviour Team has been collating residents’ complaints and Robert Walsh, Head of Safer and Stronger Communities, sent out a ‘personal message‘ [PDF, 254KB] to around 50 properties in the area surrounding the youth club at the end of March. In his letter, Mr Walsh outlined a number of changes that Southern Brooks Community Partnership (which operates the youth club) had agreed to make, including turning off the floodlights when the sports courts are not in use, ensuring that young people are always supervised when using the courts, banning use of the courts after 8:30pm and clamping down on the use of foul or abusive language by young people playing in the courts.
SGC also agreed to fit metal shields to the floodlights (to lessen their impact on neighbouring properties) – a proposal rejected by Bradley Stoke Town Councillors at a meeting in December 2010.
Ongoing problems at the youth club were apparent at the April meeting of BSTC’s Leisure, Youth & Amenities Committee, where the SBCP Youth Leader reported that “the constant complaining by local residents [had] taken its toll on the youth club and staff members”. One Councillor at the meeting expressed concern that local PCSOs had been discouraged from visiting the centre and the Youth Leader acknowledged that “relationships between the youth club and police are not good”.
The Youth Leader’s Quarterly Report, obtained from BSTC under a Freedom of Information request, includes a number of references to complaints and allegations coming from just one (unnamed) resident and claims that these led to “young people and staff feeling unsafe and unsupported at the youth centre and decreasing numbers [of young people attending]”.
The toppling of the floodlight was discussed at last week’s meeting of the BSTC Planning & Environment Committee, but only after newly-elected Chair Cllr John Ashe raised the matter, since it failed to appear on the quarterly Health & Safety Report presented to the meeting. Town Mayor Ben Walker seemed reluctant to discuss the incident but the Council’s Deputy Clerk and Facilities Manager John Rendell was more forthcoming, placing the blame with one (unnamed) “friendly resident” who was said to have been the source of “the majority of complaints”. Cllr Walker then interjected to clarify that there was “no direct connection between the criminal damage and the resident [referred to by Mr Rendell]”.
Other incidents of vandalism at Brook Way Activity Centre detailed in the quarterly Health & Safety Report include the pulling down of a section of fencing around the sports courts and the shattering of glass panes in patio doors at the centre after they were shot at by a “ball bearing weapon”.
Residents concerned about the impact of the youth club are known to have been in contact with local MP Jack Lopresti, who recently used a speech in the House of Commons to criticise the local police’s response to complaints about anti-social behaviour in an area of Filton.
[Ed: The Journal has asked SGC to provide data about the numbers of complaints and complainants relating to anti-social behaviour at the Brook Way Activity Centre since the youth club moved in. The Council’s press office was unable to provide an answer before the publication of this article.]
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