Council set to abandon 24 hour opening for Solitude

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Banbridge Council is set to return to ‘normal’ opening hours for Solitude Park, abandoning 24 hour opening, trialled earlier this year.

While the council remains tight-lipped on the issue, findings of the 24-hour trial opening period were brought before the Leisure and Development Committee at last Monday night’s meeting, on November 10.

And the Leader understands, based on the findings, the park will close at 11pm during next summer as had previously been the case.

The council has said the outcome will only be made public once the findings are ratified at the next full council meeting which will take place on Monday, December 1.

A council spokesperson said: “Following this we will be able to report the findings and any associated actions.”

It is believed however that the council will move to scrap the controversial opening plan which was trialled during the months of August and September of this year.

Councillor Glenn Barr said: “As far as I am aware from the findings, it will be suggested that it would be best to open the park only until 11pm during the summer months, and not all night as was previously trialled.

“To me this is a realisic and acceptable time. After all, the park has been funded through ratepayers money and so they should have a say on it and their opinions should be listened to.”

Councillor Barr continued: “the views of residents living near-by also need to be taken into consideration.”

The initiative which arose through a partnership working with the PSNI Policing With the Community Branch as part of efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour issues, immediately flagged concerns for residents in the proximity who were worried the new opening hours would attract vandalism and noise close to their homes, especially for pensioners living opposite the park.

Many locals expressed fears of anti-social behaviour in the park during these hours, and raised concerns about groups gathering to drink along with other problems such as littering and vandalism.

At the time, Councillor Junior McCrum had also expressed fears that Solitude Park would ‘return to being somewhere people cannot walk after a 24 hour trial opening of the park’ and said he didn’t want to see the park ‘return to what it used to be, a place where people couldn’t walk through’.

Worried that the park would be destroyed, Councillor McCrum added: “£1.2 million has been spent on the park’s redevelopment and it was turned into a great place, a place where you could walk with your child or enjoy council events.

“A lot of pensioners living down opposite the park are concerned with the noise and shouting after 10 o’clock. They are already hearing that. I think being open to 10pm on summer nights is enough” he warned.