A 216-signature petition has helped persuade Greenwich Council to start locking its parks at night once again, two months after it left them open because of budget cuts.
The council said it would save nearly £9,000 by leaving gates unlocked as part of a £7.1 million, four-year package of cuts agreed earlier this year. Park gates have been left open since April.
But after a petition from park user Carol Howcroft, who complained about the risks of antisocial behaviour and vandalism in Fairy Hill Park in Mottingham and Southcroft Park in New Eltham, the policy has been scrapped. It is the second time the council has made a U-turn on such a policy.
The response to the petition, to be presented to next week’s council meeting, says: “During the coronavirus pandemic usage of our parks and open spaces has increased significantly and their value and importance has been recognised by a wider section of the community and society generally. The council recognises the important role our parks and open spaces will continue to play for the health and wellbeing of our residents especially during [the] coronavirus pandemic and wants to reassure residents they are properly cared for and protected. Therefore, it has decided that it will start relocking parks overnight that were previously locked (prior to 1st April 2020).”
Car parks have been locked since the beginning of the lockdown and remain locked.
When councillors were asked to make the decision earlier this year, they were told that “this will need community consultation so that there is good awareness of the rationale for taking this action. A communications campaign would need to be developed so that there is a good level of awareness of the benefits of providing increased access to our parks.”
Conservative councillor Matt Hartley, who represents the Coldharbour and New Eltham ward which covers the two parks, told 853: ““This is the second time in four years that the council has tried to leave our local parks unlocked at night, and the second time that the strength of residents’ opposition to the move has forced them to rethink.
“In the short space of time this policy was in place the police had already had to make increased visits, so this decision will come as a big relief all round.
“I am grateful to the council for listening and doing the right thing, and want to thank the 216 residents who signed the petition, as well as the Friends of Fairy Hill Park and other park Friends groups who argued so strongly against this. We hope with this second u-turn the issue is now permanently settled.”
Story updated at 12.30pm with Matt Hartley quote.
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