A Solihull beauty spot which had become a prime target for dogging, drug use and fly-tipping at night-time has had new security measures installed.
Residents have raised regular complaints about illicit activity in Marsh Lane, Hampton-in-Arden – which, despite the pandemic, has continued to be advertised online as a popular spot for “all sorts of fun”.
But now a £5,000 scheme intended to end the “after hours” anti-social behaviour has been put in place.
Villagers hope that a newly-installed gate, locked after dark, will succeed where lockdown failed and put an end to the sordid stop-offs.
The sturdy barrier is currently being shut at 6pm and opened again in the morning, to allow access for anglers, ramblers and wildlife-lovers during daylight hours.
It will stop unlocked until slightly later once the clocks go forward – in line with the council policy of having sites open for longer during the summer months.
Cllr Alison Rolf, a Bickenhill ward councillor and cabinet member for stronger and safer communities, admitted problems had plagued the secluded site for years and it “just wasn’t nice.”
Welcoming the new gate, she said: “People can’t get down there to have their little parties.
“Residents are really positive about it and really delighted … we will hopefully stop some of the stuff going on there.”
The lane, near to a nature reserve and a centuries-old river crossing, is understood to have become a magnet for problems because it is away from people’s homes and out of public view.
Last autumn we reported that websites were still promoting the location even as Covid cases snowballed.
And it even featured in an Economist article last month about some of the more lurid examples of lockdown breaking.
“It is just not what you’d expect from an affluent village in Solihull,” a local source had told the magazine.
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Aside from dogging, the area has also been frequented by fly-tippers and had issues with drug-taking.
Previous schemes to deter offences, such as installing CCTV, had been tried but proven unsuccessful.
Amid fresh calls to thrash out a solution, the installation of gates was suggested at a public meeting in late 2019.
And around 12 months ago the council gave its backing to imposing restrictions on traffic at certain times.
Although plans got the sign-off just days before the first lockdown, the Covid-19 crisis meant delays to the programme of highways projects and further discussions with residents.
Almost a year on a council spokesman confirmed the works had been completed.
“Following on from a successful public consultation, the gate at Marsh Lane is now installed and fully operational. The installation took place in late February.”