Park gates to remain open at night in bid to save money


Users of Merton’s parks are anxious about a borough plan to make savings by leaving park gates unlocked at night

By Joe Curtis

Angry park users are condemning council plans to leave them unlocked at night in a bid to save money.

Merton Council plans to recoup £57,000 a year by leaving the gates of 16 borough parks open at night, despite fears that it will cause more vandalism and damage.

Friends of Cottenham Park and Friends of Holland Gardens, whose collective fund-raising has brought around £180,000 of investment to the two parks, branded the scheme a waste of money and time.

“We have spent £95,000 on providing new children’s equipment and refurbishment but now all of that is going to be put at risk,” said Michael Woods, chairman of the  Cottenham Park group.

Holland Gardens has benefited from £90,000 of investment to renew the tennis courts and a bowls pitch.

The money came from applications to charities such as the Marathon Trust, which said money was only available to parks that were properly maintained.

If the cabinet-approved plans are backed by the full council at a meeting on March 2, a further £350,000 would be saved by cutting staff and reducing maintenance.

“With such cuts occurring, it is questionable where further funding like this will come from in future,” said Mr Woods.

Cllr Roderick Scott (Con) said the move would allow youths to use the parks at night for drinking and drug-taking.

Monica Bassani, manager of Montessori Pre-school in Cottenham Park, whose nursery classes take place in the pavilion, said anti-social behaviour was already a problem.

“I perform a risk assessment every morning and have to clean up used condoms and broken bottles from the night before,” she said.

“There used to be a park keeper but we don’t see him anymore. Council workers come now and again, but all they do is mow the lawn.”

The council hopes that friends groups for its 16 parks, which include three that have won the coveted green flag award, will volunteer to lock the gates themselves.

Cllr Andrew Judge, Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration, pointed at Kingston’s “unlocked yet safe” parks as a reason for residents not to worry.

“The cuts are not set in stone,” said Cllr Judge, who will speak to each of the groups in March.

“What is proposed could be altered, but I have to say that I believe that the scale of the cut to parks and open spaces is unlikely to be reduced.”

If the plans are approved then the parks will be left unlocked from April 1.  


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