HRUA campaign brings Council U-turn on park locking
Demonstration outside the Civic Centre on September 12th.
Photo courtesy of Harrow Times, posters by Lawrence Matthias and Gerry Devine
Harrow Council’s plan to cease locking parks at night was abandoned just before the start of the Cabinet meeting on Thursday 12th September. HRUA had informed the Council of its intention to present a petition and demonstrate our opposition to the plan at the Cabinet meeting, and we gathered a total of 1180 signatures. These were from members of HRUA, other users of Harrow Recreation Ground including the dog walkers, residents of adjacent properties, and organisations such as Roxborough Road Residents, Harrow Bowls Club, Three Bridges Cricket Club, local shopkeepers and the Harrow Hotel.
Thanks to everyone who helped by collecting signatures, lobbying the Council, writing letters to newspapers (who have been very supportive) and above all, who signed the petition. The people have spoken, and at last we have been listened to!
The petition also attracted support from all over the borough, including other park user groups and campaigners who had organised their own petitions against parks being left unlocked at night. These included Friends of Canons Park, Harrow Weald Bowling Club, Pinner Memorial Park, Pinner Village Gardens, The Croft, and Rayners Mead. Others included those worried about cemeteries being left unlocked at night.
Councillors from Headstone South (Bill Stephenson and Sasi Suresh, Labour) actively campaigned against the plan and were joined by others from Headstone North (James Bond, Independent); Rayner’s Lane (Krishna Suresh, Labour); Pinner South (John Nickolay, Conservative) at the demonstration organised by HRUA outside the Civic Centre.We therefore achieved cross-party consensus from the three main political groups representing our local wards against the unlocked parks policy of the Independent Labour administration which currently controls the Council. This is no mean feat in a borough where political unity is rare these days.
Headstone South Safer Neighbourhoods Police had expressed their concerns about the effect on crime levels and overall policing in the ward. They are now doing late night patrols, as there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour even with the gates locked, but the prospect of access all night every night to anyone who wants to get up to mischief, or worse – drug dealing and wild parties – was worrying to almost everyone who enjoys the lovely atmosphere of this very special park.
The demonstration was attended by about 30 people. It would have been more had we not been told just before it was due to start that the Council had decided to change their mind and lock the parks after all. Although the demonstration and petition were therefore technically unnecessary after the decision was announced, we decided to go ahead to show the strength of support for keeping parks and cemeteries locked. Both the Harrow Observer and Harrow Times covered the story and their websites have details.
This ends a long period of uncertainty about the future safety and security of Harrow’s prime parks and a number of cemeteries which would have been left unlocked. Exactly the same proposal was kicked out by the Council in 2006 and it is surprising that it was even suggested again. However memories are short – and council funds these days even shorter. The campaign this time was far longer and the Council took a long time to agree with our views (unlike the U-turn on dog bins – incidentally we are still missing two bins that were removed on the very day the Council did the U-turn but have not so far been reinstated). HRUA is proud to have been able to help change the Council’s mind on both these issues.