'We need litter patrols to protect Downs'

September 29 2020

A councillor is demanding litter police patrol Clifton Downs amid fears the lack of enforcement has made the beauty spot a “free-for-all”.
Conservative Cllr for Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze, Steve Smith says problems including parking are going unchecked, which he blames for causing the huge
 car-meet a fortnight ago.
More than 300 motor enthusiasts attended the unauthorised event on Sunday, August 23, and residents called police about drivers wheeling their cars around, revving engines, speeding down local roads and playing loud music.
Vehicles damaged the fields and many were parked on the grass at Ladies Mile.
In a written question to mayor Marvin Rees at Bristol City Council members’ forum, Cllr Smith said: “The recent car-meet on the Downs illustrates perfectly what happens when the Downs bylaws are not enforced.
“If the little things like barbecues, littering and parking are allowed to continue unchecked, it gives the impression that the Downs are a free-for-all, and potentially dangerous events like this are the result.”
He said at the remote meeting on Tuesday, September 8: “Enforcement should absolutely be a last resort and not a first option – speak softly and carry a big stick.
“The difficulty on the Downs in particular, though, is that there is no enforcement at the moment. There is no means of enforcement, there is nobody to enforce the Downs bylaws and so we’re just speaking softly which in some cases isn’t enough.”
Cllr Smith asked Bristol’s mayor if existing council enforcement officers elsewhere in the city could patrol the Downs.
Mr Rees replied: “We will always talk with the Downs committee about how we can work with them most effectively to manage that public space. We do need to rely on some good old British commonsense at the same time as going around trying to shape individual behaviour through us telling people what to do. It breaks my heart when you walk past and someone has left all their litter there – their sandwich wrappers and cigarette butts – what is going through people’s minds?”
He told Cllr Smith: “Our enforcement is stretched phenomenally in the authority, across litter, across housing services as well.
“People protest for frontline services but there are less glamorous aspects of what we should be doing that people don’t protest to protect, such as enforcement teams, and yet they are vital to us managing the city. It’s a stretch but we will talk to the committee and I’m more than happy to talk to you to support public space and ensure it’s as good a quality public space as possible for all Bristolians.”
Littering, including dropping cigarette butts and chewing gum, on Bristol’s streets carries a £100 spot fine, which reduces to £65 if paid within two weeks, although non-payment can lead to an appearance before magistrates and a criminal record. The council contracts enforcement firm 3GS.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service