Young teenagers can enjoy the run of hot weather and swim in a local river despite some neighbours getting hot under the collar about them.
A meeting of Gillingham Town Council on July 2, considered complaints from residents about youths swimming in the River Shreen.
Neighbours had even raised the issue of their human rights about the youngsters enjoying themselves in the exceptional hot spell. A slip of paper posted through letterboxes of some residents about the use of the open space by the young people had not originated from the council.
One resident said their human rights had been contravened under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that provides a right to respect for one’s ”private and family life, his home and his correspondence”, subject to certain restrictions “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society.”
Cllr Barry Von Clemens challenged this. Young people playing on a river bank did not contravene these rights and referred to Article 31 of the United Nations Convention Rights of the Child that states “children and young people have the right to have fun in the way they want to, whether by playing sports, watching films, or something else entirely. They have the right to rest, too. Children and young people should be able to take part freely in cultural activities, just like adults. The government should make sure it’s easy for them to do this whether or not they have a disability.”
He had seen groups using the site and there was an acceptable noise level from a crowd of 12 to 24 chatting and having fun. River safety had been raised and he urged them to be aware of the dangers.
Parents told the meeting there were concerns about drug taking and alcohol, river bank erosion and natural hazards associated with river swimming.
Other parents praised the youngsters for being respectful and keeping the area tidy. One said: I have heard shrieking, possibly from young girls, but this is to be expected. All rubbish is placed in the bin. We were all children once and there has been no damage to the site.
Another said the suggestion of drugs was speculation. “There is precious little enough to do in Gillingham for the young people and I would support the young people using the area.”
Dorset Police had received only one report of anti-social behaviour. The young people “were not trying to hide or get up to mischief.”
Cllr Von Clemens welcomed the offer of help from the community and suggested that if anyone else was interested to contact the council.
Cllr Joyce pointed out that the young people were enjoying the hot weather and he could remember playing in the river as a child and making rafts.
Cllr Mrs Betty Ridout concluded by saying the river is there for the public to enjoy.