The independent London newspaper

Primrose Hill: New plea to lock up park gates

Residents want solutions over nighttime crime activity

22 October, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Primrose Hill

A CAMPAIGN to have gates installed on Primrose Hill in response to rising levels of anti-social behaviour in the park has hit a wall after managers said the scheme was too costly and would not work.

People living near the park complained throughout the summer about being kept awake until the early hours of the morning and, at times, being harassed by people occupying the open space at night.

Police were called to Unlicensed Music Events (UMEs) and found people drinking and taking drugs.

A meeting with officers and Royal Parks was held in August at which gates, possibly paid for by residents’ donations, were discussed.

But in a letter to the council this week, Royal Parks manager Nick Biddle that locking up the park was “unlikely”, adding that the cost would be £160,000 even before rolling maintenance costs.

He added that gates would not “prevent illegal assemblies in the park given that the low fencing that surrounds the park does not provide a significant obstacle for transgressors”.

The park over the lockdown attracted hundreds attending late night raves

Neighbours say that although colder weather has meant fewer late-night parties, drug deals have continued.

Eleanor Sturdy, 55, who lives nearby and was assaulted after one of the music events, said: “We’re all surprised and frankly disgusted by his [Mr Biddle’s] response. Crime and anti-social behaviour has not ended in the park.

“It has turned into a shooting gallery with dealers parked in the roads around and users then going into the park to get their hit.”

She added: “If gates won’t be installed, what is going to be done? As the letter offers no alternative it feels like Royal Parks’ management have decided to abandon Primrose Hill.”

Jos Vernon, another concerned resident, said the park had become a go-to place as nightclubs and other venues closed.

“The Hill has become used as an unpoliced area in which people are free to ignore the law”, he said.

“Groups gather in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be dispersed. Drug deals are done with the understanding that the participants are unlikely to be disturbed.”

Ward police teams, however, say there have been fewer reports of crimes in the area this autumn compared with the summer months.

Community campaigner Phil Cowan said: “There was a push years ago to close the park at night and people were up in arms about it because it’s meant to be a public space.

“I think we have to consider young people too who haven’t got anywhere else to go at the moment and most use it as a harmless, social place to meet friends.”

He added: “Activity in the park will die down as the winter comes upon us so we might need to let nature take its course and rely on people’s sense of responsibility.”

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