Pilgrims Hatch dispersal order plans cut down to size

Plans to introduce a police dispersal order covering the whole of Pilgrims Hatch were thrown out by Brentwood councillors on Wednesday night, infuriating the idea’s proponents.

Liberal Democrat councillors, on police advice, had put forward the motion to the full council meeting, but it was amended to cover just one small part of the area.

Lib Dems argued that a spike in serious antisocial behaviour meant that the police needed the extra powers.

Dispersal orders mean officers can order groups of two or more people to leave an area if they suspect them of any wrongdoing, and it is a criminal offence for them to return within 24 hours.

Cllr Barry Aspinell (Lib Dem, Pilgrims Hatch) described some of the problems he has seen at the repeatedly vandalised children’s play area at the Bishops Hall Park community centre, on Elizabeth Road.

He said: “Somebody had gone into that lovely area and deliberately smashed glass bottles over the sand pit.

“Was it just to wind us up or to deliberately injure someone? I don’t know.”

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Other Lib Dems stressed that they had proposed the dispersal order because the police were calling for it.

But Cllr Chris Hossack (Conservative, Hutton East), who lives in the ward in question, said: “I don’t agree that it should be blanketed over Pilgrims Hatch. It should be absolutely focused on the areas where it’s needed.”

Referring to figures suggesting a rise in antisocial behaviour in June and August, he added: “I don’t think there has been such a big increase, there has been a summer holiday.

“You’ll find increases across the country.”

Cllr Russell Quirk (Conservative, Hutton North), a property expert, said that publicity from the introduction of an order could lower house prices in the area.

He added: “I think you’re using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Council leader Cllr Louise McKinlay (Conservative, Hutton North) proposed an amendment to the motion, so that the order would only cover the area around Harewood Road and Bishops Hall Park. This was passed.

After the meeting Cllr David Kendall (Lib Dem, Pilgrims Hatch) said: “I am disgusted that the majority of the Tory group and the sole Labour member were unable to support us on this very important law-and-order issue. They should be ashamed of their decision.”

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