Around £20,000 were spent to install dozens of ‘skate strips’ on the area in front of Bristol’s Cenotaph in a bid to prevent skateboarders from continuing to use the space, it has been revealed.
Council chiefs defended their decision to install them last summer after facing criticism from skateboarders, local residents and politicians. The council has previously said the ‘skate strips’ were introduced because of continuing complaints about the skaters in the area between Electricity House and the Cenotaph, but other local residents said the strips are a trip hazard and unfair on the skateboarders.
And information obtained via a Freedom of Information request shows the cost for supply and installation of the stoppers was approximately £20,000. However, the council said it was unable to provide specific figure due to fixed prices being commercially sensitive information.
Details of the complaints received by the council were also released by the council, with one from December 2020 saying: “Four years we have been fighting this issue of skateboarders, their noise into the early mornings and general couldn’t care less attitude, sadly along with a total lack of concrete action on the matter from the council or police.
“There isn’t even a ‘no skateboard’ sign covering the area, so the police say they have no power. The anti-skate boarding measures do nothing and you provide area lighting for them, so in effect the council are actively supporting the ongoing nuisance, to the detriment of all others and the negative impact on residents’ mental health and wellbeing.
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“Things need to change and we hope you can once and for all get some measures in place that actively prevents them from using the area.”
Another complaint said people don’t walk through the middle of the square because it has been “taken over by skateboarders”, adding: “Can you please do something about this and don’t leave it until something tragic happens, as you did with the Bearpit.”
Another letter of complaint from December 2020 claimed the skateboarders were breaking covid restrictions and were gathering in groups of up to 20 people from midday to up to 4am. Young people began congregating in the northern end of The Centre to skateboard as soon as the area was created by a revamp of the area in November 2017, and their presence there has been a contentious issue in Bristol ever since.
Skaters used to congregate on the smaller paved area on College Green but said the flat paving created by the transformation of The Centre in 2017 was an ideal place to skate. Some skate strips were installed a couple of months later at a cost of £21,000, but the entire area was covered with them last summer, also having an impact on people cycling or scooting through the square.
The council said regular damage to street furniture there was the reason it was determined to move the skateboarders on. A Bristol City Council spokesperson said at the time they were installed: “The skate strips are being introduced in response to local complaints raising concerns about damage to paving, trees, planters, benches and the ground close to monuments.
“The area around the Cenotaph is a well-used public space and thoroughfare in the centre of the city and it is important that it remains safe and accessible for all our citizens. Sadly, despite our best efforts and most of the people using this space doing so respectfully, street furniture in the area continues to be damaged.
“Whilst we are not seeking to exclude anyone’s use of this area, we are aiming to ensure that the space is used respectfully by everyone,” he added.
But, at the time, skateboarders objected to the move. “The metal strips are every 10ft the whole way across the floor – it’s a massive trip hazard now,” said one skater, Josh.
Bristol City Council was contacted to comment on the cost of the ‘skate strips’. Skateboarders are still regularly seen in the spot despite the presence of the strips.