‘Task force’ to help beat the ‘free-runners’

Freerunners have caused �15k damage to buildings on Ropergate in Pontefract town centre. The town centre partnership have now set up an action group with the police to clamp down on the problem.'cllr David Jones, cllr Celia Loughran, Ann Story (Yorkshire Building Society), cllr Lorna Malkin, cllr Pat Garbutt and cllr Clice Tennett
Freerunners have caused �15k damage to buildings on Ropergate in Pontefract town centre. The town centre partnership have now set up an action group with the police to clamp down on the problem.'cllr David Jones, cllr Celia Loughran, Ann Story (Yorkshire Building Society), cllr Lorna Malkin, cllr Pat Garbutt and cllr Clice Tennett
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Business owners, councillors and members of the community have set up a ‘task force’ to help combat ‘free-running’ in Pontefract.

Youths left a trail of damage on rooftops in November, after jumping between buildings on Ropergate and around the town centre.

The town had been promoted on a specialist website, with people from as far away as Bournemouth visiting the area to climb buildings, run along rooftops and jump gaps.

The community is concerned the town has become a hotspot and the ‘free-runners’ will return in the coming months.

Coun Denise Jeffery, chairwoman of Pontefract Town Centre Partnership, said: “I was shocked how bad the situation was.

“I didn’t realise that Pontefract was being advertised on the internet as the place to be for free runners.

“Because the buildings are so close together and apparently easy to access, somebody had posted online that it was the best place for do it.

“But it’s not safe and it’s causing damage in our town.”

A ‘task force’ was set up to deal with the problem, after fears criminal gangs could also be targeting the town, accessing properties from the rooftops.

Pontefract councillor, and group member, Coun Celia Loughran said: “We want to make sure our town is safe for everyone.

“I’m very worried that someone is going to fall off a building.

“They shouldn’t be doing it in the first place and part of our work will be to try to find other things that young people can do.”

The ‘task force’, made up of concerned residents, business owners, councillors and members of the Pontefract Business Forum will meet later this month.

Parkour UK chief executive Eugene Minogue said a distinction needed to be made between free-runners and people engaging in anti-social behaviour.

He said: “There is no sporting reason for Parkour/Freerunning to be practised at on roof tops, however it can and ideally should be practised in the outdoor environment.

“Parkour/Freerunning is a sport that needs and requires the same dedication, discipline and attention as any other sport. It encourages humility, respect for others and for one’s environment, self-expression, community spirit, and the importance of play, discovery and safety at all times.

“If someone is engaging in anti-social behaviour or criminal damage, it should be labelled as that and not labelled as free-running. It is not something that us or our sport condone.”