Community leaders have dismissed claims an area beside an historic bridge has become a hotspot for antisocial behaviour, drug-taking, foul language and nudity.
North Yorkshire County, Richmondshire District and St Martin’s Parish councillors have been swift to react to a string of allegations made about Sleegill in Richmond by resident Dr Robert Brown after he lodged a planning application to clear up a parcel of road-side land.
In the unusual application to the Richmondshire authority, Dr Brown claimed the unknown ownership of the site, which is beside his property and the 18th century grade II* listed Green Bridge, had created “a loophole for antisocial activity”.
In his application Dr Brown stated: “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.”
However, councillors said while on occasion football matches had caused concern in the area due to indiscriminate parking, there had never been any of the other issues Dr Brown claimed had arisen following the pandemic.
Elected members for the area said the county council had plans in place to put double yellow lines along Sleegill to prevent parking issues.
Chair of the parish council, Councillor Wynn Delf denied the area was an eyesore.
She said: “It has been a public piece of ground for at least 60 years and even has the parish council’s noticeboard on it.
“There’s no fly-tipping issue and it’s a bit public to go dancing around in the nude. It’s busy because a lot of people use it as a back road to Catterick Garrison.”
County councillor Helen Grant, who lives nearby, added: “Apart from the incidences related to the Covid-19 debacle, at the same time as the falls over on the other side of the river, I am unaware of any antisocial behaviour, drug-taking, nakedness or what might be referred to as fly-tipping. The area is like many in the district, natural and hardly kept at all.”
Nevertheless, following Dr Brown’s claims, the parish council has sought to take ownership of the site, applying to the Land Registry as it appeared that no one owns it.
As a fall-back, there is also a move to claim the site as an Asset of Community Value to protect it.
District councillor Paul Cullen said the parcel of land had long been used as a car park.
He said: “I’ve been using it for 40 years and it’s popular with people walking their dogs on the Coast to Coast path. Lots of people use it as there’s nowhere else to park. It’s a community asset.
“I’m all in favour of the parish council claiming it for the parish for everybody to use. It has made the parish council realise they should gain ownership of the site for community use rather than leave it with no one knowing whose it is.”