A coastal village was in uproar this week after an influx of young teenagers led to illegal drinking, vandalism and reports of inappropriate behaviour.
Crowds of under-16s, attracted to the area by the Hunstanton Tennis Tournament, began massing nightly on the beach at Brancaster and police were called to seize any alcohol being carried.
Some groups also congregated after dark on the village recreation ground, disturbing nearby residents and leaving behind rubbish, empty drink cans and broken glass on children’s play equipment.
Lyndsay Burrows, 20, who runs the village shop, was one of many people who voluntarily cleared away the debris.
She estimated the ages of the culprits as 14-15 and said: “They are getting bottles and smashing them against the kids’ play area. They have got alcohol. They are drunk. They are using the playing field as a toilet. One of them was sick on the sports court.
“Two groups were fighting and there were people going off doing things you wouldn’t want to know about.” She also suffered verbal abuse.
Miss Burrows believed Brancaster was being targeted for the gatherings because it was a central point for young people staying in the Burnham Market and Docking areas.
The village was not hostile to the young visitors and she said: “If they didn’t come and make the amount of noise and mess they do there wouldn’t be a problem.”
Another villager said: “They are irresponsible and incredibly selfish when we are working hard to raise money for play equipment.”
Resident Jackie Sands said: “I’m sick and tired of the kids. They just wreck the place.”
Brancaster councillor Tom de Winton said he had been out each night monitoring the situation and gathering information. He hoped discussions between the police, councils, residents, tennis tournament organisers and other groups would lead to a pro-active approach to prevent problems recurring next year.
“We need to manage the situation so that everyone has lots of fun in a safe environment and they don’t trash our village,” he said.
Mr de Winton, whose family plays in the tournament, said he had seen no rudeness, stupidity or aggression during his observations. The biggest problem seemed to be littering and broken glass.
Ian Symington, secretary of the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club next to Brancaster beach, said the club had employed a security guard this year due to problems experienced during previous tennis tournament weeks.
He said: “It’s disappointing that the young people are allowed to be here, unsupervised, as late as they are. It’s a pity because the tournament is a good thing.”
Chris Holt, who organises the week-long tournament at Hunstanton Recreation Ground, said it attracted 1,200 players this year and, at busy times, there could be 5,000 spectators at the ground.
He deplored the reports of under-age drinking and young people having sex in the dunes at Brancaster.
He emailed 770 families before the event asking everyone to be on their best behaviour and do nothing to bring tennis into disrepute. A small number of players and associated friends had chosen to ignore the message.
A statement on the tournament website said events in Brancaster had led to calls for the event to be stopped. It referred to large number of youngsters, especially in the 13 to 17 age group, involved in the illegal drinking, inappropriate behaviour and showing a total disregard for the residents of the village.
Mr Holt said: “We don’t want this to happen. It gives us a bad name.”
Ann Rowen, Juniors referee at the tournament, went to the beach on Tuesday night and saw young people arriving on foot and being dropped off by car and taxi. None had brought alcohol.
She said she was fearful for their safety because they were unsupervised, on a treacherous beach at a time of particularly high tides. “None of them had a torch,” she said.
A police spokesman said: “We have had reports of anti-social behaviour at Brancaster believed to be connected with tennis week on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.
“We have met with organisers of the event and with the community and are continuing to carry out regular patrols as well as responding to incidents. Alcohol will be seized from anyone drinking under age and groups causing problems will be dispersed.”