IT WAS meant to be a monument to civic pride in the new century ... but police today admitted the Millennium Bridge site is now a major nuisance.

York-based Chief Inspector Andy Bell spoke out as high temperatures prompted many youngsters to congregate at the bridge.

Some were seen hanging off the bridge by its railings, and there were reports of others jumping into the river from the bridge deck.

Mr Bell said: "We are obviously very concerned about the stupid actions of youngsters who decide to jump into the river because it is a warm day.

"The river is not particularly clean at that point, and there are dangerous currents there, too. It is absolutely not safe to enter the river there."

He said the police recognised that the bridge area "now represents a major nuisance problem", adding that residents and tour boat companies had reported problems with youngsters.

On both sides of the river, residents say that while most youngsters at the bridge are well-behaved, a minority could be set to cause a summer of heartache.

David Taylor, of Bishopthorpe Road, said: "Everyone knows that what they're doing is dangerous and stupid. They mess about on the bridge, and you hear about them chucking lumps of mud on to passing boats.

"But it's surely down to the police to sort it out."

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said the bridge had attracted "a bad crowd" since it opened.

"I've seen a lot of trouble in the time since this bridge arrived," he said.

The neighbour claimed he had seen a young children's cricket match interrupted by a group of "yobs", who stole the children's stumps and bat, and ran off.

He also claimed to have approached a group of under-age drinkers by the riverside, and asked them to "have the decency" to take their litter home.

He said: "I even said I'd leave a bin liner with them, and that if they just left their litter in it, I'd take it away next morning. All I got was a faceful of abuse."

But he said the bridge was "a fabulous idea" and that seeing it bustling with users in the early morning was "brilliant".

He said he had not contacted the police or City of York Council about the problems, as he feared the two authorities would be powerless to do anything about it.

"These kids are far too clever," he said. "They know how to hide from the police."

Mr Bell said that officers would be monitoring the area throughout the summer months.

He added: "These youngsters seem to want to treat the bridge as a play park, and it certainly isn't that. It should be, and is, a superb resource for the city. But it is clearly becoming a policing problem. I would ask parents to be conscious of where their children are. I would hate to attend a tragedy there."

- Children were also seen yesterday jumping into the River Foss at Castle Mills Bridge.

Updated: 11:26 Friday, July 27, 2001