THERE was an increased police presence in Ilkley yesterday after the force took the unusual step of executing a Dispersal Order on Wednesday.

It came amid growing fears among the public and councillors over heatwave disorder in Ilkley.

The town has is a top destination when temperatures soar, with people flocking down to the banks of the River Wharfe.

The coronavirus crisis and subsequent lockdown has only seen this increase.

When our sister paper the T&A visited the riverbank in Ilkley yesterday, there were crowded scenes but the atmosphere was much calmer than 24 hours earlier.when police had been called to "large groups of people fighting".

Wednesday’s violence, among other issues, prompted police to issue a Dispersal Order, which covered the whole of Ilkley, Ben Rhydding and the popular riverbanks in those areas.

PC Rahman, police constable for Keighley, said on Wednesday: "There has been large groups of people fighting.

"People have left masses of rubbish behind.

"Not to mention that COVID-19 is still around whilst people have all been swimming in the river."

A member of the public even spotted a youngster climbing on top of the suspension bridge, just off Leeds Road as you enter Ben Rhydding, which sits perilously above the River Wharfe.

They said at 1.45pm: "Irresponsible behaviour, no sign of police presence anywhere."

They also explained that the youth was being "egged on" by a young girl who was taking a picture of him.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley) shared the member of public's concerns.

She said: "If anyone falls off that bridge they will be dead."

The councillor questioned why youngsters were being allowed to put themselves at risk, if it is too dangerous for them to be back at school, also mentioning that many were not even complying with the soon-to-be-introduced "one-metre-plus" social distancing rule, nevermind the two-metre rule.

The Dispersal Order was exercised at 4.12pm on Wednesday and last for 48 hours.

It means officers will be able to move people on right until Friday afternoon, if they are deemed to be acting in an anti-social manner.

PC Rahman said on social media website, Twitter, on Wednesday: "Currently at Ilkley enforcing a dispersal order that has been exercised to prevent anti-social behaviour.

"We have received several reports and are exercising these powers now.

"The dispersal order has been in place today 4.12pm and will last for 48 hours.

"We will move you along."

Pictures taken by the T&A on Thursday showed large groups still gathered near the riverbank.

One individual could be seen jumping off a rock into the River Wharfe, while a big gathering of youngsters basked in the sun on the pebbles.

But there seemed to be a much calmer atmosphere than the day before, with a more significant police presence - one picture showed four officers keeping an eye from a suspension bridge.

Cllr Hawkesworth said the issue had been raised a number of weeks prior this latest chapter and admits she saw it coming.

The Cllr usually receives a flood of messages and mentions of social media website, Twitter, when mayhem is happening in the town and on the riverbanks on sunny days.

There was nothing, that she was aware of, on Thursday and implied that it must have been calmer.

But she still feels more must be done, with the summer about to get in full swing.

She said: "Enough is enough - the authorities, between them, need to get their act together."

A member of the public questioned the fairness of the dispersal order in moving everyone on, rather than those just breaking the rules and being anti-social.

They said: "Only issue is, not everyone being dispersed are guilty of anti-social behaviour.

"Some are down there following the rules as the Government set out, only to be moved on anyway."

PC Rahman responded to say he agrees it is unfair, but that the few have ruined it for the many.

He added: "When a dispersal order is in place we must enforce it whilst being fair and treating everyone equally.

"It’s not ideal because the minority have ruined it for the majority."