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Primrose Hill residents: Locking park up overnight should not be a one-off

Some fear the months of warm weather ahead without a more permanent solution to anti-social behaviour

15 April, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

The view from the top of Primrose Hill 

PRIMROSE Hill was locked up at night over the weekend in a move which was hailed as a success by neighbours fed up with non-stop lockdown parties.

Amid mounting pressure from people living near the park, police announced on Thursday they would be shutting the hill overnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as a “short-term” fix for anti-social behaviour in the area that has escalated in recent weeks.

It has remained open on a 24-hour basis since the 1970s but, as a series of New Journal reports showed, people have been left sleepless by the noise and frightened by rowdy and sometimes violent behaviour.

The park, meanwhile, has been left strewn with litter after parties known in police terms as unlicensed music events (UMEs).

Despite some Covid rules still being in place, the Easter bank holiday saw thousands of people head to the open space, with hundreds attending an illegal party on the Sunday.

A video of it was that was shared on social media provoked a torrent of angry comments online.

Videos of parties held in the park are posted to social media

Ahead of the closure, Inspector Richard Berns of Camden police said: “This will still be a resource-intensive challenge but we feel it is necessary due to this being the last weekend before much of the hospitality industry reopens.”

Residents, however, now fear the extra measures cannot be a one-off.

Melanie Richards, from the nearby Kingsland estate, said: “It was nice and quiet on the weekend and as far as I’m concerned, it was a success. I had braced myself for another hard weekend, as we all do, so I was delighted when it worked.”

She added: “I hope now they consider plans to close the park overnight on weekends on a regular basis, because I’ve got no doubt at all that it’ll go back to the way it was. It’s become a destination, and is known as a free venue and is advertised as such on social media.”

Residents campaigning to have gates installed around the park have offered to fundraise to pay for the measure to be put in place as they believe it would discourage people from entering the park at night but, parks manager Nick Biddle has repeatedly turned down the idea saying it would not work and be too costly.

Mr Biddle has said he hoped the problems seen over lockdown periods will reduce with the gradual reopening of social and entertainment venues.

Police say they are creating an action plan for the area

Ms Richards added: “I just don’t get the argument against closing it.”

But not everyone is in favour of the park’s closure, with opinion online divided, with some saying the park should be “for everyone”.

Former Tory councillor Jonny Bucknell said: “Closing the park on the weekend was overkill, there were so many cops around but it was freezing so there was barely anyone there anyway.

“We should do everything we can to avoid closing the park and losing the beautiful view and this wonderful civil liberty. What is needed is light policing and extra resources such as park stewards and portable loos to be placed in the park.”

Superintendent Dominic Barnes, the new chief of Camden’s neighbourhood policing unit, said he was devising an action plan.

“Part of my team’s approach to keeping people safe will be to engage with residents to start having regular conversations about what’s going on and how we should tackle it,” he said. “This is a long-term concern for us, so we’re looking at a long-term problem-solving initiative.”

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