Deputy council leader backs gates for Primrose Hill park

‘It’s lovely for young people to go up and have fun, but not at 3am’

Thursday, 7th July — By Harry Taylor

july7 Image 2022-07-11 at 7.47.04 AM (7)

Primrose Hill

TOWN Hall chiefs are backing the installation of gates on Primrose Hill, just days after they were reintroduced at nights over weekends in response to reports of anti-social behaviour.

Pat Callaghan, the deputy leader of Camden Council, told Monday’s full council meeting that the temporary measures were needed to tackle noisy “boomboxes” that were disrupting people living near the park.

In response to a question from her Labour party colleague Anna Burrage – a Primrose Hill councillor who last week criticised the Royal Parks for their lack of planning for any disruption – Cllr Callaghan said: “Primrose Hill was once a nice area you went up to at night with a couple of friends and had a couple of bottles of wine and some music with a radio, but not a boombox. Then all of a sudden last year it became a party venue.

Pat Callaghan speaking at Monday’s meeting

“It’s lovely to hear young people go up and celebrate and have fun – not at 3 o’clock in the morning, not with boomboxes, and it’s just a few people with the boomboxes, but boy do they spread the music.”

She added: “The police did make a difference towards the end of the summer last year, but I don’t think we can rely on the police all the time.

“What’s the hassle with gates? You can open gates and close gates. You can close gates if you do think there is going to be a lot of noise at night, but you can open them if you don’t think that’s going to happen.”

She told the story of a teenager who had to go and sleep in the bath when he was in the middle of exams in 2020, because of noise at the front of the house.

On Friday, the Royal Parks announced that the hill would be closed at night during weekends again, as it was for six months last year after disruption reached a peak at Easter.

Neighbours have reported again that fireworks have been let off and loud noise on top of the hill has worsened in recent weeks.

But others have said issues are only mirroring life on the hill before the pandemic.

The gates are now shut from 10pm until 6am the following morning on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, although neighbours have already complained that they were not locked at the weekend.

Amy McKeown, one of the founders of the Primrose Hill Keepers group, which wants the park to stay open, said: “No one wants anti-social behaviour or for people to feel unsafe in the area. However, this year, as last summer, decisions were made with only a few voices being heard and no evidence of it being shared publicly.

“It is this lack of transparency and engagement that has caused the community division and anger of the last two years. There is also a lack of honesty about the installation of permanent gates which will not be used, as Cllr Callaghan suggests, when needed. They will be closed at dusk throughout the year, alongside Regent’s Park, which is 4pm in winter.”

Phil Cowan, who lives on the edge of the park, said he supported the temporary gates’ installation.

“It’s become undeniably evident over previous weeks that the situation was not being managed effectively, resulting in risk to park users and our community,” he said.

“Consistency in ensuring the park is regularly closed during the designated hours is essential to building on the message that Primrose Hill park is not an unlicensed, unmonitored party venue where anything goes 24/7.

“The vast majority of park visitors, local residents, businesses and authorities who do abide by the law support having a safe, enjoyable space that contributes to, rather than detracts from the wellbeing of our community.”

Cllr Burrage said: “In the absence of a proper 24/7 visitor management plan by the Royal Parks, I agree with Cllr Callaghan’s call for gates to prevent anti-social and illegal activities which cause harm and distress, particularly late at night, to members of the local community who are vulnerable.

“But I urge the Camden and the Royal Parks police to provide more of a presence in the area and to work together with the local authority to identify the small minority of visitors who make it difficult to keep the park open for the majority.”

On Friday, the Royal Parks said: “We plan to install temporary fencing at park entrances. We hope that this short-term solution will help put an end to the disruptive behaviour we have been witnessing recently but we will continue to work closely with the police to keep the situation under review. Being in a park after closing time is a criminal offence. Enforcement of the law is a matter for the Metropolitan Police.”

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