Drinking could be banned from a park in east London after it was left trashed and covered in litter, urine and faeces by thousands of louts during lockdown.
Hackney Council is seeking a court injunction to temporarily prohibit boozing on London Fields following weeks of disturbance, which it says has put officers under pressure and left people feeling excluded from the park.
The town hall adds that it will discuss the issues with locals and businesses, including considering longer-term options to ensure it is a safe and inclusive space for all.
Thousands have descended on London Fields in recent weeks following the easing of lockdown restrictions, but the local authority has been inundated by complaints from neighbours
Huge amounts of litter have been left dumped at the east London park, while people have also been seen urinating and defecating
Some of the anti-social behaviour described includes DJs setting up sound systems, with loud music and dancing continuing late into the night
Thousands have descended on London Fields in recent weeks following the easing of lockdown restrictions, but the local authority has been inundated by complaints from neighbours.
Some of the anti-social behaviour described includes DJs setting up sound systems, with loud music and dancing continuing late into the night, and people using trees, woodland and even other people’s gardens and front doors as a toilet.
As of last Thursday, the council had issued 193 fines at London Fields for urinating, defecating and littering in May and June alone, compared to just nine in the previous 12 months.
There were even reports of officers running out of paper to issue fines, such was the scale of the disruption.
It also issued 13 antisocial behaviour warning notices in May, compared to just six in an entire year before that.
More than 100 of the 193 fines were issued to people who do not live in the borough, including 10 issued to people with SW postcodes, nine with SE postcodes and others from Ilford, Bow, Poplar, Archway, and as far afield as Chelmsford, Bishop’s Stortford, Bexley and St Albans.
Young people have also told the Council’s Young Future’s Commission that the way some people behave in London Fields makes them feel unsafe in the park and concerned about the potential for spread of infection among BAME communities, who are more at risk from coronavirus.
The council insists the injunction is a last resort but says, if granted, it is aimed at limiting such behaviour caused by drinking and large-scale music events.
It will ban people in London Fields from consuming alcohol, damaging wildlife, possessing, consuming or selling laughing gas or nitrous oxide, playing loud amplified music, lighting fires or barbecues, driving vehicles or using generators in the park; and leaving litter.
Nitrous oxide canisters are among the many bits of litter being left – they will be banned if a court injunction is granted
As of last Thursday, the council had issued 193 fines at London Fields for urinating, defecating and littering in May and June alone, compared to just nine in the previous 12 months
It would also then give police the power of arrest for breaches of these conditions, while an extra 12 enforcement officers are set to be recruited.
Twenty-five large commercial bins have been added, along with earlier-than-usual summer waste collections, and the opening of toilers as part of measures to help manage the ongoing issues at the park.
The council adds that there are concerns things may get even worse over the summer as pubs and restaurants continue to be impacted by social distancing restrictions.
Managing the behaviour is costing the council some £150,000 – at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is squeezing budgets even more.
The measures the Council is taking to manage behaviour at London Fields are coming at a cost of approximately £150,000, at a time when it is under extreme financial pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said: ‘London Fields is not a festival site – it’s a vital green space for everyone.
‘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.
‘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 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.’
Young people have also told the Council’s Young Future’s Commission that the way some people behave in London Fields makes them feel unsafe in the park and concerned about the potential for spread of infection among BAME communities, who are more at risk from coronavirus
The frustration was echoed by Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm.
He said: ‘During the pandemic, our parks have been more important than ever, and our staff are working incredibly hard to keep them clean and maintained.
‘Despite calls from some to close our parks during this time, we were adamant that they remained open for exercise and leisure; especially for those with no access to their own outdoor space.
‘However, since lockdown was ‘relaxed’ by the Government, this commitment to ensuring our parks remain welcoming for all our residents has become increasingly difficult to achieve, and particularly at London Fields.
‘While the park has had issues with antisocial behaviour in the past, this year is far worse than at any other point; and many of these problems are fueled by alcohol.
‘Our message is clear – we welcome everyone to our parks, unless their actions make the lives of other visitors and local residents a misery.’
Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Policy, and the Voluntary Sector, added: ‘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.
‘We and the police are concerned that this will only get worse over the summer months.
‘Additional enforcement officers and a temporary ban on drinking are aimed at easing these issues while we consider longer-term options for the park.’