YORK’S parks are at risk of vandalism and litter if plans to leave them permanently unlocked are approved, residents have warned.
Budget proposals by City of York Council’s Labour group, which will be debated on Thursday, include saving £74,000 over two years by keeping parks open around the clock and stopping weekend working.
But supporters of West Bank Park in Holgate and Hull Road Park in Tang Hall claim the move may ultimately cost the authority more in clean-ups and equipment repairs.
They say children could be in danger from broken glass and needles and the sites will suffer from antisocial behaviour and graffiti. An online petition opposing the plans in Holgate now has almost 200 signatures.
The council said it was keen to work with community groups prepared to lock and unlock parks, but leaving them open at night to allow pedestrian and cyclist access at all times was “the norm” in areas including Harrogate, Ripon, Bradford, Sheffield and Wakefield.
Holgate resident and park campaigner Becky Seddon said: “West Bank Park is a really nice, well-maintained green space where a lot of work has been carried out over the last ten years and new play equipment installed at a cost of thousands of pounds.
“We fear much of this hard work will be undone and the park misused if it is left unlocked. We want the council to reconsider, because our park is very important to the community.”
Heather’s Nursery, near West Bank Park, is also backing the campaign, while the council’s Green group has proposed reversing the park plans.
Simon Moss, vice-chair of Tang Hall Residents’ Association, said Hull Road Park “might as well be built on” if it is not locked.
He said: “The council might save money one way, but it will cost them more in other ways – equipment will be vandalised and covered in graffiti, people may use the cover it offers to take drugs, and who will pick up the litter left behind?
“If these plans go ahead, I will be surprised if the park is not ruined within a year.”
Charlie Croft, the council’s assistant director of communities, culture and public realm, said: “Officers are arranging a series of meetings with key users of parks, such as local sporting clubs, residents’ associations and ‘friends of’ groups, in March and April to explore the community appetite to taking control of locking and unlocking parks.
“The move to leave parks open will be phased to allow us to monitor the impact on each site and their surrounding area, and to assess the security of buildings and assets.”