Last week I chaired a meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse to seek solutions to some of the anti-social behaviour that takes place during the National Hunt Festival, held annually in March. Tackling anti-social behaviour is one of my priorities, and residents around the Racecourse reached out to me as they often feel that no one listens to their complaints. So, I asked a wide range of stakeholders to attend my meeting, to agree a common understanding of what the problems are and try and figure out remedies.
We should never under-estimate how important the Festival is to Cheltenham, injecting millions of pounds into the local economy every year. The Borough Council, business, racegoers, those who rent out accommodation and local politicians, are invariably huge fans. This year saw a record attendance of over 280,000, making it the third largest sporting occasion in the country, and everyone at my meeting recognised this. But that does not mean we condone those who spoil it for others by drinking too much and using residents’ gardens and our parks as public toilets. Our discussion centred on working harder to stop that as well as other anti-social behaviour including litter, inconsiderate vehicle movement, excessive noise, verbal abuse and illegal drug use.
Our experts and victims discussed a wide range of solutions. More toilets along the main pedestrian routes to the Racecourse are an obvious starting point, including some of the more innovative ones like portable urinal units used at many other public events. Better signposting to the nearest toilets is also required, so those in urgent need of relief would know where to go. More marshals, working in close cooperation with the police, to keep pedestrians on the controlled routes, discouraging the use of side streets, was also agreed. Enhanced collaboration with British Transport Police to intercept those behaving badly on the trains, before they reach Gloucestershire, and increased use of drug detection dogs, were also recommended.
I believe we made a good start. Some of the detail has still to be worked out but it was pleasing to hear The Jockey Club, which organises the Festival, is keen to promote the highest standards of behaviour in order to enhance its reputation as a prestigious sporting and social event. By working together, I am confident more effective arrangements can be put in place to make next year’s Festival successful for everyone, not just race lovers.