Noise, drugs, a brawl, mountains of litter… Primrose Hill is ‘unsafe and frightening’
Calls for immediate action to stop rowdy parties in the park
01 April, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby
Large gatherings have been held on Primrose Hill at night this week
A CALL for “immediate action” has been issued after serious violence broke out on Primrose Hill as thousands headed to the park following the relaxing of Covid rules.
Neighbours have been warning about the scale of gatherings throughout the coronavirus lockdowns, detailing how loud parties run into the night and their fears somebody could get hurt.
On Tuesday, police cars and vans sped into the park just before 6pm following reports of a man with a knife acting “erratically”. Officers said nobody was arrested and there were no injuries, although their enquiries are continuing.
But in a video of a brawl posted on social media shortly afterwards, a man in a hi-vis jacket and black motorcycle helmet can be seen holding what appears to be a knife and charging into a crowd.
Crowds start to form on Primrose Hill in the warm weather this week
The coronavirus rules were relaxed on Monday with up to six people, or two households, now allowed to meet outside.
Warnings that larger gatherings remain illegal, however, have not prevented hordes of people from amassing on the top of the hill.
Many said the scene resembled a “festival” with throngs of people assembled around sound systems drinking and partying, while others queued in long lines for the public toilets. Parties continued all night with reports of people still on the hill at 6am yesterday (Wednesday) morning.
Residents said it was their third sleepless night in a row, having been kept awake by revellers on Sunday and Monday as well. Next morning residents set about clearing the park of mounds of debris.
Lucy Kelsey, who lives nearby, described how the surrounding streets were “ransacked”, adding: “The situation was out of control on Tuesday. There was a stabbing, verbal assaults, open drug taking and dealing, crowds of thousands and amplified music. The litter this morning is truly shocking – residents have literally never seen it so bad.”
Ms Kelsey said people had begun ringing doorbells asking to use toilets, while others urinated in doorways.
“There were traffic jams all night into the early hours delivering people to the park,” she said. “It is unsafe and frightening and it will continue until firm action is taken.”
Adam Simmonds, a local resident who runs an opticians close to the park, said: “There’s no suggestion of any let-up. If anything as restrictions lift and the weather improves it’s only going to get worse because it is known now as the place to party.
“The atmosphere in Primrose Hill, particularly on the weekend, is unpleasant as many of the people coming here don’t care about the community or the park and are quite happy to trash it.”
The New Journal has seen dozens of emails to the Royal Parks pleading for the park to be closed at night “as a matter of urgency” – and we reported last week how there had already been calls for gates to be installed.
Some of the litter left behind
Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer’s office said it has written to Royal Parks again, adding: “We recall our previous enquiries on this issue last year when the Royal Parks indicated that the problem could be managed and declined to take action.
“Yesterday, we contacted management at the Royal Parks again and asked them to reconsider or provide a detailed explanation why they cannot or will not.”
Melanie Richards, who lives in the Kingsland council estate on the west side of the park, said she and her neighbours have been tormented by issues in the park for the past year.
“Our estate has a gate directly onto the park so with the frequent parties we experience the noise, the screaming, the yelling and we also have a stream of people coming through the estate using it and our underground garage as a toilet and a place to take drugs,” she said.
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“It’s particularly worrying for people with young children who play on the estate and the garage is where our bin room is so people are worried to go down there any later than 10pm. The whole place feels unsafe now.”
Estate residents said rubbish is dumped there following parties, and they regularly find drug paraphernalia, urine, faeces and condoms.
Ms Richards added: “People on this estate totally back the calls for the park to be closed at night at least until Primrose Hill is no longer seen as a night-time destination. “There’s at least 200 of us who live on this estate, most are council tenants, and that’s just one block in many that surround the park. They must realise quickly how many this is affecting.”
Brigitte Clements, who also lives on the estate, said: “I’m really easy going but by the end of last summer it was tense here because everyone was so frustrated because of a lack of sleep.”
Melanie Richards said crowds from the park were urinating on the Kingsland estate
Nick Biddle, Royal Parks’ manager, has previously defended the decision to keep the park open 24 hours a day as it has been for more than 50 years, saying he hopes the park will return to normal once lockdown restrictions have lifted.
In response to requests for gates to be installed on the park, Mr Biddle said it would be too expensive and in the most recent meeting between parks, police and councillors said it could cost as much as £300,000.
Speaking during a webinar organised by Friends of Regents Park and Primrose Hill, Mr Biddle said he would be “open to consulting if the resources were made available”.
“We have big challenges facing us as there is an unprecedented number of people coming to the park. Our most experienced Royal Parks police officers told us that last night [Tuesday] was the busiest and most challenging night they had experienced in all their time working in the parks,” he said.
“It’s really disappointing when we’ve worked so hard for so long to keep the parks open and safe to see a significant minority of people behaving very poorly in the park. It’s disgraceful.”
Mr Biddle said the Royal Parks used to be policed 24 hours a day but “swingeing cuts” to the local police force since 2015 meant there are no longer dedicated officers in the park between 10.30pm and 7am.
He added: “Over Easter weekend we are going to do everything we can to encourage people to enjoy the park, respect the park, and respect the wildlife and be considerate of fellow park users