ILKLEY'S MP Robbie Moore has spoken out against the scenes witnessed in Ilkley over the weekend when many people travelled to the town and gave little regard for social distancing measures and also left reams of rubbish behind.

Last weekend saw hundreds of people flock to Ilkley to enjoy the sunshine before further easing of the Government’s coronavirus lockdown measures were introduced. The banks of the river Wharfe were packed with people drinking, having barbecues and playing loud music, as well as evidence of drug consumption.

And a police officer present near the Cow and Calf rocks car park said they were asking people to respect the guidelines. “There are people here from Manchester and Sheffield. It is mad. I can’t understand why they would want to come to overcrowded places. There must be at least 15 footpath walks around here with very few people on them. Instead they crowd into one place. We’re doing our best to educate them that they should observe social distancing but it’s not easy.”

Very few people were seen observing two metre social distancing guidelines. The guidance over last weekend was that one member of a household could meet up with a member of another household as long as they were two metres apart and in an open space. From Monday, June 1, the Government extended this to groups of six people – still adhering to two metres apart – and can include private gardens.

Mr Moore MP said: “It really was frustrating to see so many people out, blatantly ignoring the latest guidance set out by the Government. It was clear that people had flocked to Ilkley to enjoy the sunshine, but to then go on and clearly disobey social distancing rules, meet in mass gatherings and leave rubbish behind was totally unacceptable. I was down at the Riverside over the weekend to see the scenes for myself and it angered me that many simply ignored the government guidance and clearly had no respect for our town. Drug taking was also clearly happening – this cannot go on.

“I’ve received many emails about this – and rightly so. I was in contact with the Police and Bradford Council over the weekend to make them aware of the situation. Inspector Beecroft confirmed that extra police officers had been deployed to the area. Going forward, extra police officers – included mounted officers – have been requested for the coming weeks.

“Inspector Beecroft also confirmed that he has requested extra help from Bradford Council to deal with enforcement. I too have raised this with Bradford Council’s Chief Executive, supporting the police’s request for further help. I will continue to work with West Yorkshire Police and Bradford Council to ensure that, going forward, lessons are learnt from this weekend as we cannot allow this to continue.

“There has been so much fantastic work undertaken by many across Ilkley to help keep our community safe over recent weeks, and last weekend’s scenes, particularly at the Riverside felt like a kick in the teeth to all the hard work done to date. People should still remember to keep at least 2m apart from people outside of their household at all times. There is no excuse for people to be breaking these measures which have been put in place to protect us all.”

Councillor Mike Gibbons, (Con, Ilkley) hit out at those who were flouting the guidelines and said he was dismayed at the number of people visiting Ilkley while the lockdown restrictions were still in force.

Speaking about this weekend he said: “I am disappointed that once again we see so many people breaking the social distancing regulations.

“They are not only endangering other people, but also themselves. I know my council colleagues share the view that the dreadful parking makes the situation worse.

“The ability of emergency vehicles to try and pass this congestion endangers lives.”

He said hordes of people making their way to Ilkley had been going on during lockdown for some time.

He added: “There have been large numbers of people out and about at the riverside on a daily basis. We would all wish that people use common sense. We may need to send for reinforcements, such as council wardens if it doesn’t get any better.”

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley) said: "When residents see the lack of any distancing and complete disregard for their own well being, never mind others being exhibited by mostly visitors, you can understand their horror.

"Of course we need people to come to the town. Business needs it. But we want responsibility for their actions and respect for others to prevail. In fairness this is the case most of the time within the central shopping areas "The parking fiasco recently has badly damaged the trade in the centre of the town and now we don’t want the unfortunate bad publicity emanating re the Riverside and moors to exacerbate this. Come to Ilkley but care for Ilkley."

Ilkley Town Mayor Cllr Mark Stidworthy said: "The last week has been challenging. Easing of lockdown and hot weather brought large numbers of visitors to the riverside parks and Cow and Calf, with overcrowding, inconsiderate parking, litter, anti-social behaviour, and a lack of social distancing amongst large groups of people. Many Ilkley residents have not felt safe, and there is a high level of public concern, as seen by the attendance at Monday’s Town Council. "Representatives from Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Police explained how these concerns will be addressed through the summer. Coronavirus is placing considerable strain on financial and staffing resources across the district, and individual volunteers and the Friends of Ilkley Riverside Parks deserve our thanks for the help they are adding. We are also very grateful for our District Councillors highlighting these issues and raising safety and overcrowding issues with Bradford Council."

Chief Inspector Steve Greenbank of Bradford District Police, said: “Ilkley has been and continues to be a popular summer time destination for tourists and NPT officers have been working with partners over the last 12 months to plan for the 2020 season.

“As in previous years we do have a policing plan in place for the summer based around deploying appropriate resources at key times in areas which are often busy with visitors.

“The last weekend saw us mount a number of extra patrols in busy locations. Despite the large volume of people present, we continuously adopted the policy of Engaging, Explaining and Encouraging the public to comply with the Covid 19 regulations.

“There were no serious incidents of disorder, violence or theft and the incidents of anti-social behaviour which did take place were dealt with promptly.

“A new traffic management plan was put in place on Sunday and 30 fixed penalty tickets were issued across two sites in Ilkley for obstruction offences over the weekend.

“Officers work closely with the town council and licensing authorities to provide appropriate policing support to the night time economy in normal times, and will continue to do so when the hospitality industry eventually re-opens.

“We remain committed to continuously working with our partners to look at a long term solutions to issues as and when they arise.”

A spokesperson for Bradford Council said: “Ilkley is an attractive tourist destination which is very popular with visitors, especially in the summer months.

“The recent easing of Coronavirus (Covid 19) lockdown restrictions coupled with excellent weather at the weekend led to an increased number of people travelling to all tourist destinations, including Ilkley.

“Our Neighbourhood office staff have been working with partners including the police, highway services, The Environment Agency, Lido management, town and district councillors and the Friends of Ilkley’s Riverside Gardens for a number of years to help to manage the influx of visitors.

“The recent restrictions resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic have added to the complications.

“We have a traffic plan in place as well as increased bin capacity and have placed signs in the area asking people to behave responsibly and take their litter home.

“We have also put in plans to make sure that the most popular areas such as the river bank are cleaned up as soon as possible after weekends.”

“As with any large crowds there will always be an element who will behave inconsiderately and fail to observe the rules designed to keep everyone safe, but we will continue to work with all agencies to try and keep problems to a minimum will keep local and district councillors fully informed.”