Former Ely mayor pleads: ‘Take down Berlin Wall style fencing’
- Credit: Archant
Former Ely mayor Richard Hobbs urged the city council to remove ‘Berlin Wall style fencing” erected around the Maltings.
Mr Hobbs, who has been mayor four times, described the decision to barricade off the Maltings as “a ridiculous knee jerk reaction from our city council”.
He said: “Will they (the council) now take down this Berlin style fencing now the sun has gone in?”
Mr Hobbs, who was most recently mayor in 2017-18 but who lost both his city and district council seat last year, posted his comments to social media.
It followed the decision by the city council last Monday to stop the green around the Maltings being used for crowds gathering to eat, drink and party during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Hobbs insisted tackling anti-social behaviour around the Maltings ought to be a matter for the police.
“I’m saddened when the few spoil it for the many,” he said. “Now nobody can use it. I worked for many years to help produce a wonderful riverside in Ely;.” that could be enjoyed by all, especially now
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However, many supported the fencing, one person writing on Enjoy Ely More Facebook group that the atmosphere last Saturday “was really unpleasant”.
She wrote: “We were trying to have a peaceful afternoon with a glass of wine and a picnic and there were dozens of drunk guys shouting and swearing. And urinating. “What do you think would be a good idea to prevent that from happening and therefore keep the space open?”
She added that she was “not looking for an argument here at all; it would be good if we could be constructive and help make it better so the space can reopen”.
But local city and district councillor Alison Whelan wrote of the fencing that it was “sad that we had to do this”.
One other person wrote that they had walked into the Ely leisure park where McDonald’s, KFC and Cost were open for takeaways.
“The waste bins are full and overflowing and the bin in the park area between the underpass and Columbine Road are all overflowing,” he wrote. “Come on council, get it sorted.”
Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambs District Council, responded: “I asked officers at ECDC to speak to the management company at Ely leisure village to make sure they are emptying the bins as necessary.
“We are also increasing inspections of other litter bins that are the responsibility of the council to ensure they are emptied as needed.”
City of Ely Council agreed on Monday to erect fencing around the Maltings to prevent crowds gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.
People have been sitting around the Maltings drinking and chatting in recent weeks, but residents have expressed concern about the numbers congregating there.
On Saturday the Ely Standard reported that a group of around 30 people had arrived by taxi with bottles of wine and spirits and began partying there until into the evening.
Some councillors felt it was time for action and on Monday the city council responded. The council leases the Maltings to a private company who run the café/ restaurant.
Although the tenants have maintained strict social distancing rules with customers, the numbers sitting in and around the green prompted concern.
Mayor Cllr Mike Rouse said the city council wanted to “try and direct people away from the green in front of the Maltings where there are nearby residents”.
Cllr Rouse said that while RBK who operate the Maltings café and restaurant as tenants of the city council had kept within the rules, the problem was caused by too many people congregating in the area at any one time.
He said it was a “pinch point” with people walking along the towpath, using boats and others bringing drink with them to the area.
“We are trying to do something that helps, and the decision was some fencing and where it will go will be decided on Friday,” said the mayor.
“The city council needs to try and act in everyone’s interest; we are trying do something for everyone in their own interest, it doesn’t always work but we will do our best.”
He added: “People just need to use common sense”.
Many agreed social distancing was ignored. “Carry on like this and Ely will be one of the singled-out towns for lock-down,” said one resident. Another said: “Where is everyone’s common sense? This is far from over.”