An end to nightly ‘solitude’ in the park

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Concerns have been raised surrounding the decision to trial a 24 hour opening of Solitude Park over the next two months.

A statement by the council outlined plans for the decision.

It said: “A trial 24 hour opening of Solitude Park will be taking place throughout August and September. This trial will be monitored carefully to help inform the way forward for opening hours of the park in the future.”

During this period the PSNI will undertake additional patrols through Solitude Park. A SELB youth outreach worker and ENP (Every Night Project) group are currently undertaking a programme of youth engagement work in the park.

The council statement continued: “The initiative arose through partnership working with the PSNI Policing With the Community Branch, as part of efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour issues.”

Concerns have been raised about anti-social behaviour in the park during these hours.

Councillor Glenn Barr said: “Personally I don’t think it’s the best idea because of anti-social behaviour issues. It will be hard to police.

“The majority of people in Banbridge wanted the Oktoberfest in Solitude Park last September but it was cancelled when some councillors objected to selling alcohol at the park, but now they want it open 24/7. Work that one out!”

While a few were in support, most locals raised similar complaints.

Tara Purdy said: “So there can’t be a supervised, controlled Oktoberfest, but we will open the park 24 hours, unsupervised, for constant drinking. Banbridge logic! It’s a bad idea and an excuse for young ones to go drinking somewhere. It’ll bring back littering and vandalism”.

Adele Doherty said: “It’s a really bad idea. The park looks lovely and it would be a shame to have it defaced by drunk teenagers with nothing better to do. Harsh? Maybe but it’s a fact”.

“Why not just open from 6:00am until 12 midnight? So that people can walk dogs, run etc early in the morning before work?” said Alan Magill.

Raymond Reid said: “It would be a bad idea to have solitude open for 24 hours as it would take a considerable amount of resources to police it. To keep it open would be unfair to the residents who live in the area and only encourage young people to use it for drinking etc”.

The gates at the Rathfriland Street car park will be locked as normal during this trial period, the only access to the park will be through the main pedestrian entrance.

The monitoring involved in the trial will be designed to capture all relevant information - including any impact on levels of vandalism or anti-social behaviour, and the council will be working closely with the PSNI in this regard.