Heather Williamson 0

Don't Fence Our Park - Victoria Park (Worthing)

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We, the undersigned residents living in the area of Victoria Park, Worthing strongly disagree with the fencing of an area of the park for the following reasons:

If it's good enough for the general public it's good enough for the schools. As voiced by one Heene School parent who is also against the fence – ‘If the park is good enough for all of us to come to with our kids for a couple of hours after school and at the weekends then why isn’t it good enough to use during school hours too?’

Please please everyone, make sure your voice is heard. The school governors have known about this for months (since last Autumn), the parents for weeks, and only now are the council bothering to contact local residents. If we don't fight this they'll push it through regardless. I've written a petition if anyone would like to sign it?....(this is a 'quick' list of issues and is not in any order of priority)

1. According to the local paper the schools concerned with 'stranger danger and dog poo'.

If there is a genuine problem with stranger danger it is a police matter, punishing the community as a whole is a disproportionate response benefiting no one and causing ill will. The park is used by hundreds of dog walkers every day, many of whom go out of their way to clean up any litter and dog fouling they encounter whilst walking their dogs. Any dog owners allowing their dogs to foul the park without picking it up are few and far between, disabled dog owners are legally exempt from picking up their dog mess. If the park is safe and clean enough for the general public to use, it is safe and clean enough for the schools.

2. The consultation process is flawed and biased towards the school.

We are dismayed that the ‘consultation’ regarding the proposal to fence an area for use as a playing field for Heene School only seems to have taken place among the school parents. Not one single local resident has been given any information on the proposals and to most it has come as a complete surprise several weeks after the ‘consultation’ started. We can only assume that this has been an underhand attempt to push the proposals through with as little local resistance as possible? There is one consultation poster in the park hiding behind the current play area.

3. The proposed fenced area will completely ruin the view across the park.

Quite apart from the fact that the proposed fence will be as ugly as the one currently around the playground; at present people can sit on any of the benches surrounding the park and get a clear view across the park from one side to the other. As one parent told me last weekend ‘I can sit on the bench or on the grass and watch my boys playing football and my daughter in the playground without having to get up and follow them around.’ There are also a group of elderly dog owners who meet up and sit on the benches and chat while their dogs play in the park each day. The erection of a 4ft metal fence will be both obtrusive and inconvenient to users of the park.

4. Public parks are a vital green lung in built up town centre areas.

There are few enough green open space resources for people to enjoy in the centre of Worthing without losing any more. Victoria Park is a community resource for everyone and all of it should be available to everyone all of the time. The area local to the park has a very high proportion of housing with no gardens so many local residents are dependent on the open area of the park.

5. The park is a community resource and no one organisation or institution should be allowed to have priority over any community resource.

Has the person who thought up this proposal actually visited the park on a sunny weekend, evening or during the school holidays and seen how many people are enjoying it? The park is regularly jam packed with people throughout the summer, so restricting part of the park with an ugly and intrusive fence will just put more pressure on an already extremely busy area where space is already at a premium.

6. Installing the fence will make it more unsafe.

The fence will create a visual obstruction across the field making it more difficult to keep an eye on children as they play. It is currently easy for parents to keep an eye on their children playing around the park, the introduction of this fence will significantly reduce visibility thus making it more unsafe.

7. How will it be policed?

The proposal says that the fenced area will be left unlocked for the use of people outside of school time. However, given the anti-social behaviour of many park users after dark the likelihood is that the area will be used as a gathering place for teenage drinkers or for the owners of ‘status dogs’ to exercise their animals, just as the playground is now. When the resultant litter, broken glass, barbecue burns and dog mess leaves the area unsuitable for children then how long before application is made to lock it and exclude the general public from its use?

8. The thin end of the wedge.

The proposed unfenced areas of the park will also continue to attract people happy to leave litter, rubbish and dogs’ mess too. If we allow one area to be fenced then how long will it be before there is a proposal to fence the other two areas too leaving no park space for anyone else?

9. As voiced by one Heene School parent who is also against the fence – ‘If the park is good enough for all of us to come to with our kids for a couple of hours after school and at the weekends then why isn’t it good enough to use during school hours too?’

10. It excludes other uses for the park.

What about the other users of the park that will be pushed out if the school are allowed to annex part of the green field? The children’s football teams on winter Sundays, the teddy bears’ picnic run by the local playgroup, the two community-based fitness/exercise clubs that attract over 100 people regularly several days and evenings each week? Where are they supposed to go?

11. The community will be paying the price of the councils shortsightedness.

Allowing one small section of the community to take and fence a public space designed to be enjoyed by the whole community sets a dangerous precedent. We were told that the Jolly Brewers pub site was purchased for extra playground space for the school. If the architects of the school didn’t have enough room for the children to play then shouldn’t that have been taken into account before extra classes were added to such a small site?

12. The children have always used the park for games and sports days, why is a fence necessary to enable them to continue to do so? If it is due to ‘undesirable’ people and dog mess then why aren’t the council dog wardens and police increasing patrols to resolve the problems for ALL the community, rather than fencing off an area for the few?

13. The winter quagmire.

Has the school given any thought to the effect of confining themselves to using a fenced off area? Repeated use of the fenced off area will result in it becoming a quagmire, especially when it rains. How often will the fenced off area be used in the winter? Who will take responsibility for restoring the grass infrastructure. Any gardener will tell you that repeated trampling of a confined area of grass in wet conditions will destroy the grass surface and cause soil compaction, the resultant deoxygenation of the soil will kill the grass. Surely it is in the schools interest to be able to use all areas of the park.

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