Last weekend I spent a considerable amount of time monitoring the crowds at the November race meet at Cheltenham Racecourse. 

Local residents experienced very unpleasant anti-social behaviour (ASB) last March at the annual race festival, with some drunken racegoers using their gardens and bushes as public toilets.  This problem has happened before at other big race gatherings in the town but last March I received a rising number of complaints, rightly demanding action and a new approach to crowd management.

So, last June, I chaired a meeting of interested stakeholders to discuss the issue and develop solutions.  Attendees included representatives from The Jockey Club and Racecourse, the Constabulary, Cheltenham Borough Council officers and local councillors, the town Business Improvement District, parish council and community groups.  We had a meaningful and wide-ranging discussion, with suggestions for more marshals and police, more toilets along the main walk routes between the town and racecourse, and changes to the routes themselves.

We have had many meetings since June, to ensure the new plans would work. Last weekend we saw many of these changes introduced to great effect.  The Jockey Club, for its part, introduced ‘Love our Turf,’ a community-focussed initiative to promote positive behaviour from all racegoers.  This involved extra toilets, more rubbish bins and marshals to collect litter.  Students dressed in bright clothing and bobble hats were also dispatched along the main walk routes, to provide directions and advice, and create a positive image. Sufficient police were deployed within the site, and along the walk routes and town centre, supporting the traffic and pedestrian marshals, to ensure trouble was kept to an absolute minimum.

As far as I could see, all of these measures worked well and led to a significant reduction in anti-social behaviour, ensuring the event would benefit the whole town, without impacting adversely on those living close to the Racecourse. As we had over 30,000 racegoers on Saturday, which represents around half the number who attend a typical March race day, it proved a good test of our improvements.

It is amazing to see what can be achieved when we work together and take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour.