Dozens of stray horses wreak havoc in West Auckland

RESIDENTS were left terrified after loose horses ran riot across their village green.

Stray horses have been a longstanding issue in West Auckland, but the problem worsened on Monday afternoon when 25 horses escaped from a field and came galloping through Selby Close and onto the green.

Cllr Christine Wilson, who was litter picking at the time with residents, said: “They were at full gallop and I was frightened for some little boys who were on their bikes. This is a dangerous situation and could easily cause crashes and injury.”

Following the incident, former Bishop Auckland MP and Durham County Council Candidate Helen Goodman and Councillor Rob Yorke have called to have laws reviewed in hopes of incidents being reduced.

Mr Yorke said: “We need a long-term solution- every time someone leaves a gate open, it’s valuable police time and resource.”

Ms Goodman said: “Last year, police had a number of the horses chipped so owners could be identified.

The Northern Echo: Horses ran loose in St Helen Auckland in March 2020Horses ran loose in St Helen Auckland in March 2020

“After horses are captured, the council is then responsible for keeping them for 96 hours so they can be claimed or disposed of.

“This costs an average of £1,000 per horse, but the horses are worth less than this, so they are not claimed, and the council taxpayer, rather than the owner, frequently ends up footing the bill.

“The law needs changing- we should cut the time the horses are held to 48 hours- this might mean more owners come forward, and it would certainly cut the bill to the long-suffering council taxpayer.”

For the last three years, police statistics show that anti-social behaviour has been the number one problem in the area.

The former MP added: “The strongest deterrent for any crime is fear of being caught.

“This government has cut the police grant to Durham meaning we have 490 fewer police officers than in 2010.

“Even though recruitment has restarted, it takes time for new officers to get trained and experienced. This is the underlying reason that people feel their needs are not being met.”

The Northern Echo | Durham