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Rocket fired along street narrowly misses resident trying to quieten students

A firework launched along a Cotham street exploded in front of a resident as she came out of her house to try to quieten students celebrating Halloween.

Neighbour Ant Draper, who saw the events from his window, said: "Thankfully there was no injury. This was inches from being a very serious accident with life-changing consequences."

He said the explosion, captured by his home CCTV, "clearly terrified" the woman resident, who has asked not to be identified. She has confirmed the account.

Police are understood to be investigating the incident, which happened in Trelawney Road, Cotham, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Draper, who acts as convenor of a local residents' group, said there had been "a constant stream of Halloween-costumed students walking up and down Trelawney Road shouting and screaming" before and after midnight. "The noise in the street was not a minority—it was every group which walked down our street. Over the evening, this was probably getting up to 100 people."

University of Bristol says it's taking the allegations "very seriously". In a letter to students living in the area, Vice-Chancellor Evelyn Welch calls the reported behaviour "totally unacceptable."

"The incident reported to us this past weekend involved a group launching fireworks in the street. One narrowly missed a member of the public which could have resulted in serious injury. Avon & Somerset Police are aware of the report and taking action accordingly. While it is not yet fully clear if those responsible were students of the University, bystanders reported that this was the case."

She calls on students who have knowledge of the incident to contact the university.

CCTV footage

The firework exploded at 21 minutes past midnight, according to CCTV footage. Just before the blast, a vertical sliver of light appears in the top left corner of the video, partly obscured by a tree, as the woman resident opens her door to step onto the pavement. A split second later, the rocket erupts very close to her doorway, flooding the scene with light.

Mr Draper says in an email to UoB that just moments before he had seen "approximately six costumed youths" gathered in the street.

"I could see one holding a firework (rocket) which they lit and fired towards my neighbours' house. They then lit another which they fired horizontally along the pavement. It exploded right by the front door of [xx] Trelawney Road, which opens straight onto the street. At the moment it exploded, the occupant ... was coming out of the door to tell the noisy youths to be quiet. It exploded right in her face. Thankfully there was no injury. This was inches from being a very serious accident with life-changing consequences. It clearly terrified [the woman resident]."

The youths ran off as he went out to check if his neighbour had been hurt.

"As we were talking at least five groups came past in the street, shouting and not caring about the noise they were making, despite our requests to quieten down.

"Another group of students close behind the firework gang stopped and said they had shouted at them as they thought they were trying to set a firework off on a cat." Later in his email, he says this group confirmed the firework group were students.

Operation Beech, the police noise patrol funded by the university, was called at 00.33. Officers "arrived promptly and took details," Mr Draper says.

"Whilst the police were talking to us another noisy group came past and one officer asked them to be quiet. The response from one young man was 'I don't care, I live 15 doors away'. He clearly didn't care that an officer of the law was asking him to quieten down."

Loud party

Mr Draper says that in more than 30 years of living in Trelawney Road, "I have never known an evening quite so bad for continued disturbances."

Arriving home at 11.30 pm from an evening out, he heard "very loud noise" in the area. "It was clear a large party was underway somewhere but I couldn't work out where it was." He suspected it came from Cotham Lawn Road and made his first call of the evening to Operation Beech. Despite responding, the Beech officers were also unable to locate the source.

"Meanwhile there was a constant stream of Halloween-costumed students walking up and down Trelawney Road shouting and screaming. I asked three groups to be quiet, to no avail."

He calls the night's events "a clear demonstration that the university has no control over its charges and that Cotham is turning into a lawless student ghetto. The noise in the street was not a minority, it was every group which walked down our street. Over the evening this was probably getting up to 100 people. The volume of students living in our area is ballooning out of control on the back of UoB's reckless expansion policy, and the associated issues around noise and [household] waste are becoming intolerable."

He demands that UoB mount "a concerted communication campaign directly to all students via personal email or visits to remind them of their civic responsibilities and that any breach can lead to sanctions and expulsion."

He signs off with a warning that "inaction on the part of UoB is going to end up with a very serious confrontation between residents and students."

'Bad neighbourliness'

In responses to the report, Cotham councillor Guy Poultney said by email: "This sounds horrifying."

Former councillor Antony Negus called for an investigation by UoB in cooperation with the police and local residents to identify any lessons that can be learned. "Our communities do not deserve annual replays of bad neighbourliness from a significant minority of students spending their first year living in streets shared with families."

A third resident, who lives further along Trelawney Road, confirmed that it was "getting very noisy" at his end of the road at the same time as the events of Saturday night into Sunday that are described by Mr Draper.

In a further email sent on Monday, this resident adds that "there was again a lot of noise between 11pm and 1am" the previous evening. He attributes the noise to local students and says he also called Operation Beech, as Mr Draper had done the night before. "They attended, otherwise I am sure the noise would have gone on."

Operation Beech has been working extra shifts over Halloween and is due to be on duty on Halloween night itself, 31 October. There will be no shift on Wednesday, 1 November, but Beech will return on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to cover the Bonfire Night weekend. See here for more details.

Beech is staffed by Avon & Somerset Police and the officers send logs of their activity to the university, whose community liaison staff investigate incidents. The university can impose sanctions on students, in addition to any action the police themselves might take. University sanctions can include fines—typically up to £250 per student for noise offences—though penalties can theoretically extend to expulsion in very serious cases.


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