LONDON FIELDS has cost Hackney council £139,970 it never planned to spend.
The park’s popularity on sunny evenings and days, especially with barbecuing and picnicking millennials at weekends, has so worried residents that they used a Freedom of Information request to squeeze some figures out of the town hall.
This is the unbudgeted expenditure they uncovered for the 12.65 hectares at E8 3RH last year 2016:
* Staff to clean up the park £69,000;
* extra policing and Hackney council enforcement staff May-September last year 2016 £57,000;
* Provision of more rubbish bins and debris removal £9,500;
* installation and removal of fencing £3,600;
* advertising signage £870.
Mike Martin, London Fields User Group (Lfug) chairman, said that at an emergency meeting called in response to resident anger, “everyone” was worried about the way the park was “being misused by some people”.
He added: “They appear to come from all over London, because their local parks don’t allow them to have barbecues or to stay up all night drinking.”
London Fields was common land so was always open. The council’s current experiment of allowing barbecues in a section of the park should be ended.
Though Hackney claimed to have sought local opinions, “most residents have never heard of or seen the questionnaire”.
Martin said: “Local people and their children avoid the park for days after the invasion.
“We are the ones who pay the rates that pays for all the extra staff hired for clearing up of the rubbish left behind, the extra bins required and the making good afterwards.
As for rubbish bins, he said filling London Fields with them defeated the reason for the park: somewhere to walk, run, play games and relax in an environment, with grass, flowers and trees.
Park users wanted fresh air. “The smoke and burning is not acceptable.”
Some intending all-night ravers brought sleeping bags and had “their booze and various other drugs”.
A dealer, said Martin, was “vigorously selling” balloons of laughing gas, the legal high nitrous oxide.
When the park toilets were closed at night, revellers went where they could — “anywhere”.
Culture councillor Jonathan McShane commented: “Like all parks in Hackney, London Fields has increased in popularity. This has meant that we bring in additional resources across the borough, not just in London Fields, during the summer months.
“The costs quoted for additional staff to help clean London Fields in the summer also cover other sites within that area.
“London Fields was a popular park before barbecues were allowed and the issue here is not necessarily the number of park users — which we are unable to restrict — but the unacceptable behaviour of a minority.
“All park users have the responsibility to behave appropriately and clean up and dispose of their rubbish in the bins provided or at home.”
The council now wants to create an outdoor gym area. If you want to give your view, press this link.
David Altheer 210616
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