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West Norfolk villager 'having nervous breakdown' over groups gathering at river




Concerns have been raised over ongoing anti-social behaviour issues at a village mooring where groups of youths have been gathering during warm weather.

The Environment Agency own the mooring off Station Road in Watlington where residents have complained of litter, nudity, shouting and vandalism.

Officers received three phone calls between 1.50pm and 4.15pm on Thursday to reports of groups of people gathering at Watlington and Magdalen as temperatures reached up to 30 degrees Celsius.

Watlington residents concerned by group of youths swimming and causing nuisance at the mooring. This picture was taken at the mooring in April 2019
Watlington residents concerned by group of youths swimming and causing nuisance at the mooring. This picture was taken at the mooring in April 2019

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Police said: "Officers attended and dispersed up to 70 people across the afternoon. The area is well knows to local officers and features on routine high visibility patrols."

She added that people had been jumping off the pontoon and swimming in both villages.

One Watlington resident, who did not wish to be named, said he was having a "nervous breakdown" due to the groups gathering at the mooring near his home.

After two days of hot sunshine, lots of piles of rubbish was left on the sand at Bawsey Country Park on Thursday. Problems have also been reported at Watlington and Magdalen, where 70 people were dispersed by police. Picture: Ian Burt
After two days of hot sunshine, lots of piles of rubbish was left on the sand at Bawsey Country Park on Thursday. Problems have also been reported at Watlington and Magdalen, where 70 people were dispersed by police. Picture: Ian Burt

He said: "It's become a headache and it has been looking like Brighton beach. People are coming from all over Norfolk and gather around the river. The young kids do not care about anything but they will if there is a second outbreak [Covid-19].

"This is residential here, it's not a holiday camp. The Environment Agency was supposed to install a cage well before the summer. We were told this last year but there has been delay after delay."

The Environment Agency has previously put up signs saying “No access” and “No swimming”.

However, the anonymous resident said a lock has been snapped on the gate as people continue to gather whenever the sun is shining. He also bemoaned people getting changed in the hedges near his house, as well as the amounts of litter being left.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We understand the anxiety local people are experiencing because of antisocial and inconsiderate behaviour in the area, which is why we’ve continued to work with the police and the council to put a stop to it.

“We’re in the process of securing the site to prevent unauthorised access, and fencing and gates will be up by the end of the day (Monday).

“Local residents should continue to report littering, damage and other anti-social behaviour to the police by calling 101.”

Irven Forbes, Anglian Waterways Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Every summer we see people put themselves at risk by ignoring warning signs and swimming where it isn’t safe, and we know this can have serious, even tragic, consequences.

“Please don’t take the chance – follow posted safety warnings and guidance from the authorities. If you don’t, you’re risking your life, and you could face a day in court and a steep fine.”

Increased numbers of people have been noted across many Environment Agency [EA] structures and sites – despite warnings year on year of the dangers.

As the country emerges from lockdown, the behaviour poses "additional risks" not just to those breaking the rules, but to local residents, and is putting "additional pressure on police and EA resources".

Jean Golding, chairwoman of Watlington Parish Council said: "There is nothing the parish council can do. It is down to the Environment Agency to enforce the rules and regulations.

"I know local people there have complained. The EA have locked the gate on occasions but there is not really anything the council can do. We have had meetings with the police, borough councillor and county councillor but it is an EA issue."

She continued: "I have to say most youths learn to swim there. There is nothing I can do to stop it as much as I would like to help residents if these people are causing a nuisance.

"It is only when the weather is like this which let's face it, is not very often. I used to walk the dog that way and pick up litter but I do not go there any more."



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