Hackney Council seeks to stop London Fields becoming a ‘drinking destination’ with alcohol ban
PUBLISHED: 14:24 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:08 02 July 2020
Hackney Council is taking action through the courts to temporarily ban drinking alcohol in London Fields.
The council said it has been left with “no other option” than to seek the temporary injunction following a “significant number” of complaints from those living nearby over the past few weeks about loud music, drunken behaviour, public urination and defecation, and littering, which has made them feel “unwelcome” in the park and disrupted their home lives.
If granted by the court the injunction would grant police the power to arrest anyone consuming alcohol, damaging wildlife, possessing, consuming or selling nitrous oxide, laughing gas or NO2, playing loud amplified music, lighting fires or barbecues, driving vehicles, using generators, or leaving litter in the park.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidlines. thousands of people have flocked to the park, with DJs setting up sound systems leading to dancing, loud music and noise continuing late into the night, people urinating against trees in the park, in people’s gardens and outside their front doors and others defecating in the woodland.
The council has spent about £150,000 on managing behavior at London Fields, at a time when it is already under extreme financial pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 193 fines have been issued at London Fields for urinating, defecating and littering in May and June, compared to just nine in the previous 12 months. The council issued 13 anti-social behaviour warning notices in May, compared to just six in the previous 12 months.
Of the 193 fines, 101 were issued to people who do not live in the borough, including 10 to people with South West London postcodes, nine with South East postcodes and others from Ilford, Bow, Poplar, Archway, and as far afield as Chelmsford, Bishop’s Stortford, Bexley and St Albans.
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The council’s safety chief, Cllr Caroline Selman, said: “It’s become clear as the lockdown has eased that London Fields is becoming a drinking destination for people from far beyond the local area, which in turn is leading to more organised entertainment and more people failing to treat the park or its neighbours with the respect they deserve.”
The council and police officers are concerned that as lockdown measures continue, and pubs and restaurants continue to be impacted by social distancing restrictions, the situation could get even worse over the summer.
The council has already tried to manage the situation in the park by installing 25 large commercial waste bins, opening toilets with additional cleaning, implementing additional summer waste collections earlier than usual, issuing fines and printing dozens of banners reminding people of government coronavirus guidance.
Additional security guards have already been drafted in to help manage the issues, and the another 12 enforcement officers will soon be employed by the council to keep Hackney’s parks safe and clean.
Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said: “London Fields is not a festival site. It’s a vital green space for everyone.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that this is costing the council so much to manage, when this money could be better spent on our other parks or vital support for local residents, like food distribution to vulnerable people or services for young people.
“We’ve heard so many stories from local people - many with no outside space of their own - who feel excluded from the park and whose lives are being made a misery because of littering, urinating, defecating and drunken behaviour.
“We have already put extensive measures in place to try to tackle the issues but we are being left with no option but to apply for this temporary alcohol ban while we consider how to manage the situation in London Fields in the long-term.
“We appreciate that this will also impact people who have been respecting the park and its neighbours but we must ensure that everyone - young and old - can use it together.”
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