Proposal to clear up ‘public nudity’ hotspot

A resident has applied for a council’s consent to clear up a road-side parcel of land beside a historic bridge, claiming the area has become an eyesore, a focus for public nudity and a drug-taking hotspot.

Dr Robert Brown has lodged the unusual plan with Richmondshire District Council to clean and restore the 106sq m area of land which is next to his property, the former Good Intent pub on Sleegill, Richmond, and the 18th century grade II* listed The Green Bridge.

He said the land, which is regularly used by residents and Coast to Coast walkers to park cars, was once owned by a trust stemming from the legacy of 16th century cleric John Dakyn, who was responsible for the North of England’s first, and possibly only, burning for heresy.

However, as a result of a piecemeal approach to land registration in the area, the planning documents state the trust does not now acknowledge ownership of the site, creating what Dr Brown describes as “a loophole for antisocial activity”.

He said as a result, the area has been unmaintained and neglected, and become covered in soil, debris and vegetation.

Dr Brown said: “The whole area is in a poor state of repair and has not been substantially maintained for many years. At present it is untidy, unsightly and unpleasant.

“It is a discredit to the neighbourhood and when we are trying to enhance the area through initiatives like Britain in Bloom this area lets us down.

“In addition the loose soil washes onto the pavement and road, where it is a safety hazard and creates a threat of blocked drains.”

Dr Brown said during lockdown the area had become a centre for antisocial and criminal behaviour, including fly-tipping, foul language, public nudity and drug-dealing.

He said: “Addressing the possibility of future misuse of this area has been a major motivation for this work, as this had a very detrimental impact on the quality of life of ourselves and other residents.

“The aim is to restore the area to its original appearance as far as possible, and to retain a traditional appearance.”

He said the main task would be removing soil, debris and vegetation to “reveal the old surface and retaining wall”.

While some residents have supported the proposal in principle, they have also highlighted the importance of maintaining the site as a parking area, without any loss of the available space.

Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said he questioned whether clearing soil, debris and vegetation from the area would be a deterrent to antisocial behaviour.