Saturday, 6 October 2007

CROOK/COUNTRY DURHAM: UK's first dispersal order in run-up to Guy Fawkes

UK's first dispersal order in run-up to Guy Fawkes

COUNCILLORS have approved the country's first dispersal order for fireworks.

Leading up to Bonfire Night last year, in the Low Mown Meadows area of Crook, there were 52 incidents of anti-social behaviour relating to fireworks in the six weeks before November 5 - the highest in County Durham.

On Wednesday, Wear Valley District Council's policy and strategic development control committee approved a dispersal order - similar to an anti-social behaviour order, but placed on an area, rather than an individual.

The order means that any person under the age of 16, who is in the area after 9pm without good reason, can be asked to move on.

Elaine Baker, the council's community safety manager, said the aim was to reduce the number of small or secondary fires.

"It is the first time a dispersal order has been used for secondary fire problems," she said.

"It means that if the police or police community support officers (pcsos) see groups causing anti-social behaviour, they can disperse them, send them home, or even escort them."

Since 2003, when there were only 12 fire-related incidents reported, every year has seen an increase.

Councillor Geoff Mowbray, who represents the Crook South ward, said: "It will probably give a better quality of life to residents in the area than last year. They must have gone through hell."

Skips have been provided to reduce the amount of rubbish in the area, and youth engagement workers are hoping to work with local youngsters.

Ms Baker said it is not just youngsters from the estate who start the fires, but also teenagers from other areas.

She said: "If they're playing football, that's not an issue. But if the police see them with wood, they would ask them to move on. It's a trial this year and, hopefully, if it works well this year, it'll be something we repeat."

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