Solitude plan is ‘slipped through’

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Plans for a 24 hour trial opening of Solitude Park during the months of August and September are pressing ahead, despite overwhelming opposition from councillors.

It is also unclear how the pilot scheme came to be passed.

A council spokesman said: “The findings of a multi-agency group were presented to Council at the Policy and Resources Committee Meeting held on June 23, where it was recommended and agreed that Solitude Park opens for 24 hours per day during August and September as a trial.” However Councillor Junior McCrum said he was unaware the decision had been passed.

“This has been slipped through unnoticed and undiscussed,” said Mr McCrum.

“We were surprised when it came up in the minutes and I don’t know who came up with the idea. This has gone through under the radar.

“When the issue was first discussed councillors had said 10pm was late enough for the park to stay open.”

The move has caused controversy, with the council claiming it is intended to address anti-social behaviour but councillors and residents fearing it will lead to an escalation of these problems.

“The pilot scheme was one of the actions from a multi-agency workshop held in June 2014 to look at addressing ongoing anti-social behaviour issues in Solitude Park” said the council spokesman, however Mr McCrum said: “£1.2 million has been spent to set the park up the way it is, it is a nice park now and we don’t want it to end up going back to the way it used to be.

“The council would be better spending money to pay someone to have the park locked up at night than paying to cover the cost of vandalism.”

Councillor Joan Baird, was also unaware who had raised the pilot scheme. She said: “I don’t know who proposed this but I have been contacted by so many people who live in the area and are concerned about it.

“We will just have to wait and see what happens over the next two months but I have advised people if there is any trouble to contact the police and make a complaint.

The council has said the pilot project is to run for the months of August and September 2014 only, with a review at the end of this time period to assess the impact. Any future actions including opening hours of the park will be based on this review.

Mr McCrum concluded: “I don’t know if this will be taken as far as a vote, but I don’t think it will carry as the majority of councillors will vote for a 10pm closing.”