Whalley vicar speaks out as residents left 'fearful' from historical Abbey attack
A vicar from Whalley has said the community needs to ‘work together’ to combat anti-social behaviour in the village, after 150 yobs vandalised the historical Whalley Abbey last weekend.
It comes after a meeting was held on Wednesday night, September 1, between concerned residents, Ribble Valley police officers, local businesses and representatives from the council to focus on a solution.
It is understood that most of the young people involved had travelled to Whalley from other towns, such as Blackburn and Accrington, who then harassed Whalley Abbey Reverend Adam Thomas and his wife, as well as assaulting police officers who tried to disperse them.
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The newly-appointed vicar has spoken out against the vandals, saying the community of Whalley needs to 'take responsibility and work together' to combat antisocial behaviour in the future.
He said: "The vandalism has really taken its toll on us and the community that live here, as well as staff and volunteers at Whalley Abbey. The gardener fears coming in in the mornings as he is scared to see what damage could have been caused.
"And the elderly people now fear coming out to prayer. It means that the low-level antisocial behaviour begins to impact you more, and we question why it is happening to us.
"Representatives of local businesses, residents, local councillors and representatives of the church all came together for a meeting on Wednesday and we felt the operation by Police was successful.
"We recognise we need to come together in Whalley and work as a collective with the community to come up with a short and long term plan. The next steps will be to work together across the community to put these plans together and reach out to hold a consultation.
"We aim to work together with the police and charities to put together a plan that will promote safety around drugs and alcohol and what problems they create, as well as activities for young people and help for families that need more support.
"We all need to recognise that we have a role to play in putting this right and looking after one another going forward."
Police confirmed yesterday that they are still investigating the events that happened last weekend, August 28 and 29, when 150 yobs descended on the northern 13th Century beauty spot.
Robert Thompson, chairman of the Ribble Valley Community Safety Partnership, said he has requested a meeting with the local police inspector but said the introduction of the new Whalley youth club has 'significantly reduced' anti-social behaviour.
He remains concerned about the rising issues surrounding drug and alcohol use in the borough.
He said: “Whalley seems to have become location central for youngsters from surrounding towns and villages, who need something constructive and safe to do.
“The purpose of the youth hub is to engage local youngsters on a long-term basis in a range of activities aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour.
“Unfortunately, over the weekend a number of youngsters from other areas descended on the village and were the subject of a police response.
“I have requested a meeting with the local police inspector to ascertain exactly what happened and whether further measures are needed.
“The hub has been a significant success, giving them a place to meet and engage in positive activity, including respecting the abbey and its environment, which has suffered from vandalism.”
The Youth Hub was first mooted late last year in an attempt to tackle anti-social behaviour in Whalley, which had become ‘location central’ for gangs of rowdy youngsters from surrounding towns and villages.
The Rev. Adam Thomas from Whalley Abbey then offered the use of the abbey’s gatehouse, while the Lancashire police and crime commissioner stepped forward with £17,000 to turn it into a permanent premises hosting activities Monday to Thursday from 6 to 8 pm.
Graham Vernon, of the Burnley Boys and Girls Club, which manages the hub, said: “This is good old-fashioned youth work, that is having a positive impact on the community.
“The Abbey has experienced vandalism in the past and basing the hub there has given youngsters some responsibility for the site.
“In fact, since the hub’s launch, there has been a significant reduction in complaints of anti-social behaviour in Whalley."