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Alexandra Park

Hi Guys.
Ive been a member on this site for a while, and thought I would put m first post up today relating to the graffiti/tags that have appeared on the toilets of Alexandra Park.
I am very frustrated with the approach that the Council are taking in relation not just to this park, but others around the town. I have lived here since August, and have noticed that the park attendants are almost always early closing the park, they arent approachable, and when its closing time, they just blow their whilstle and expect us to understand!
But more importantly than their blatant lack of common courtesy, I am upset that our PUBLIC PARKS are closed for about 16 hours a day in the winter- and this is apparently to stop crime in the vicinity of the park. Well thats obviously not working, as the grafitti went up this weekend. Instead, this closing of the parks is meaning locals cannnot walk their dogs in the evening  or early in the morning, nor can anyone who works full time access the parks, but the kids are still getting access overnight but jumping the fences or getting through gaps. There is also a worryingly large group of homeless people in the park.
I understand that this is a rant- however it seems to me that the people who are unable to use the park are those who have a vested interest in its ongoing- and kids or gangs or homeless people who do not invest in the park can access it through the breaks in the park, and are totally alone in the park to do their criminal behaviour, BECAUSE ITS CLOSED to the rest of us. Seems to me that their idea isnt working.


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Kathie J
I can understand how you feel however, I heard that at one time the council were considering not locking the parks at all due to the cut backs and that if residents wanted them locked then they would have to form groups of volunteers to do it. So it seems we are lucky to still have them (although it sounds like they need to polish their customer skills up).
Dozey M
Sentinel, Would you have us Tax payers, footing the bill for the Homeless, being put into Bed and Breakfast accommodation? Which by the way is a duty the local Council is supposed to carry out. But again fails it's duties! 

Is it me, or many of the Homeless we see around from foreign country's?. Hoping to eventually get a Council House plus Benefits.

As for Parks, well why bother to lock them up if they can be accessed due to broken fences, etc. Vandalism is usual because the people who carry it out are the young, who are bored and have nothing to do, with parents that don't care what they are up too, or where they are. ,
Community Team IBC
We have passed on your concerns to the Parks department and Supported Housing team, we have recieved the following response from the Supported Housing Team:

There is currently some significant work being carried out to assist the 3 tent dwellers who have recently been accessing the IWNS (Ipswich Winter Night Shelter) for night time accommodation. Housing Options have met with them and an interpreter who works at the CSC this afternoon and I have made Environmental Health aware of the situation who will be visiting at some point. Unfortunately, the tents are on private land owned by the college.
Dozey M
IBC, Thank you for passing our concerns on too the relevant people.

But after some thought, I was thinking I might buy a tent, hitch a lift to southern Spain, France or Italy, live in the local park, or on a central reservation, and wait to be given a nice flat overlooking the sea. Fantastic!.

Why do you not deport these people!. How dare they come hear and expect to be housed and be given benefits  I have had to work and pay taxes since I was 14 years old. I get nothing from the state, cannot even get an early Hospital appointment, then have to wait months for treatment. 

There is something radically wrong with this country!. 
Sentinel R inactive
Dozey M.....we foot the bill anyway in the form of housing benefit. I work in homelessness ( not in Ipswich) so I have some undeerstanding of services available for homeless people. If you look around at homless people, observe on thing- the majority of street homeless are single men, who under the law have no duty held them by the local authority unless they are deemed 'vulnerable' ( generally disability or severe ill health). I don't know how Ipswich treat homeless applicants, but almost certainly they will be told they have no priority and will end up being referred to agencies such as IHAG, who MAY be able to offer accommodation. The problem is many of these people have support needs (drug problems, alcohol, mental health) and will need to be in a supported housing environment. Many will simply have been 'on the sheet' ( sleeping rough) for such a long time that they simply can't cope with the services offered. The government is supposed to be rolling out something called 'no second night out' whcih aims to get these people off of the street at night, but some services are so poor that many choose to sleep on the street rather than take up this opportunity. I don't know if Ipswich is signed up to this initiative.
The reality is that anyone who is an EU citizen has equal rights to housing as a UK citizen so long as they can prove 'habitual residency' Ie they have lived and worked here a while.
Ultimately the taxpayer will fund many of these people via income benefits such as JSA, as well as housing benefit whether they be street homeless or a single mum housed on Chantry. I'm not suggesting either is right or wrong, but I do think it is wrong that in the midst of winter there is not anywhere off the street that these prople can go at night...or if there is there is clearly either not enough people picking these people up and into the service, or not enough bedspaces IN the service. Where I live we had somone living in our bin stores. He set a fire one night and nearly burned the block down ( presumably trying to keep warm) we also have people rummaging in the bins. Now at great expense to leaseholders we have had to install key coded locks!!
Michael H
Hi i read with interest peoples concerns about our parks as i worked as a park ranger a few years back.The problem with people sleeping in parks and the vandalism is not new and has been happening as long as i can remember and thats a long while.What the council are up against is if they leave the parks open 24 hrs they are then responsible for creating a safe enviroment for the users this will result in the need to have more staff on call should a incident arise.We are very lucky in ipswich to have so many parks and great benefactors who left them to the towns people but the upkeep is enormous and i feel that the council do a very good job maintaining them.As for the vandalism yes it occurs but on the whole it is created by a very few people with issues.As for the remark about the rangers being unapproachable this is a little unfair until you know the facts when i was working i was looking after3x parks on my own murryside / landseer park / and alexander park.Just checking the toilets and play areas in these parks on a busy saturday used to take up most of your time plus filling out incident reports.So it was a big ask.One thing i did notice when i worked there was the fact that most people really thought alot of the parks and used them with respect on a regular basis
Kai F
Thanks for both replies, I found them both interesting points of view. 
In relation to the homelessness in the park, I find it very distressing that they are there, they seem to be permanent also, as well as the gaps they create in the fences are used by others at night to gain entry to the park, putting the homeless guys at massive risk to antisocial behaviour. (I'd also like to point out, Ive never ever seen anyone, including the rangers, ask them to move on)
In relation to the park rangers. Sorry but if the council feels the need to employ more of them so that they have more job satisfaction and then come across more approachable, I cant really see the downside to this. 
To be honest, being an active user of the park, I find it distressing that the council may think its more important to create a 'safe environment' than allow the local people access to the parks that they deserve. I have lived in many cities, and whilst some privately owned ones do get closed- even in Oxford, London, Portsmouth and others, all allow their parks to be open all the time- and they dont seem to have such an issue. The problem im trying to address here is that the council is deciding for the public what is safe and not, and thus not fixing the problem, but just denying access to the parks, which cant be the best way. Not to mention that most people have the common sense to know when would be safe. I personally think that watching the sundown over alexandra park and down over ipswich is totally beautiful, and I cant see the benefits of cutting access at this time, apart from cost cutting measures by the council because they dont want to employ more people. We are the local community, and we should stand up for gaining access to our parks- it shouldnt be the councils place to create a safe environment, but to keep the place open and accessible for everyone. Which they arent doing either.
Kai F
I think my general point is about the park being locked. As if it was stopping unsavoury behaviour and keeping our beautiful parks in good condition then it wouldnt be so frustrating. 
But its not, it does nothing to improve our area, increases anti-social behaviour and decreases peoples feeling of community and social responsability that ties us all together. This is damaging, and I would like to see a response from IBC relating to this directly! Afterall if its not helping the situation, and it costs the council money in closing and opening the parks, the stop! Let us access our PUBLIC parks.
Michael H
The council has a budget for these parks and the rangers are part of that ( contractors now ).These people are employed for more hours during the summer due to the lighter nights within the allocated budget which is part of your council rates.The rangers have no authority to move on homeless people from the parks unless they or anyone else are causing a nuisence to other users .These parks in most have been bequethed to the people of ipswich by previous owners thats why we are so lucky having so manyThe simple fact is why do these parks need to be open in the dark to allow groups of kids to go in and spray up the shelters /pull up the plants/drug users can set fires to heat up there drugs and dog users without any consideration for others can let there dogs foul without clearing up after them .Thats without the fact that they would be ideal places to get mugged or sexually assulted thats why its safer for all that the parks are as secure as can be during the darkness hours
Kai F
I understand your concerns, but as I already said, the parks are already being used by anti social groups at night who can get over the fence, and then are unchecked when they decide to do any criminal damage. I dont think a park at night is any more unsafe relating to muggings and rape, as any of the backstreets that run between everyones gardens around here. There are more than enough easy places in Ipswich for violent crimes to take place. 
And i'm not sure if you've noticed, but at the moment, Alexandra park is being closed at 4pm. Thats just one hour after schools close, and 2 hours before sunset, when those of us who work for a living to pay our taxes so we can access the park, then cannot get in, even before sunset. I certainly dont think those wanting to get to the park in the evenings should be immediately considered as dangerous. 
I certainly dont think that people allowing their dogs to foul in the park without clearing it is a good enough reason not to open the park up. 
If the parks were closed say, at 8 or 9 pm and opened up at 6am then I think most people who want to use the park could access it. However, only opening it at 8 and closing it at 4 means that it is closed more of the day than it is open which doesnt seem fair considering its a public park, gifted to the public, for use by the public. My point is that if the council our outsourcing the rangers, then no doubt it is a cost cutting measure. It frustrates me that I pay my way, but cant access the park to walk my dog in the evening for a measure thats meant to keep the park safe, but doesnt. But those who don't work in the day have full unrestricted access. After all, I pay my way in society, and i believe i should be allowed to access my public parks. 
Afterall, if its not working, surely as a democracy we are allowed to discuss the possibility of changing the rules relating to the park?
Community Team IBC

The following message is from the Ipswich Borough Parks department:

In response to the comments made concerning Alexandra Park, the Council is always striving to improve the standard of service provided and will reflect upon these  comments to see if any further improvements are possible. In relation to the specific point about whether Alexandra Park should be locked overnight, I would stress that this issue was reviewed a short while ago and the overwhelming response from the public was that we should continue to lock it.

 Parks & Open Spaces

Kai F
Thank you very much for your reply IBC and for forwarding my comments to the relevant department. I have only lived in the area for 6 months and so was unaware of the public consultation. 
I would very much like the council to at least look at removing the graffiti around the toilets, and fixing the fence, also making the steps down to the college entrance to be fixed and in a safe state of repair. If the park being closed has already recently been reviewed and deemed acceptable I guess thats the end of it. However, I would have liked to see the park open a bit longer than it is in the winter at the moment. 
Once again, thank you very much for listening to my rant :-)
Michael H
Hi KAI yes that was certainly a rant without knowing the area and town.Are you aware that the town has several areas of parkland which are open 24/7  IE  landseer park / alesbourne country park / The lairs these are all available to be used.Your comments about the kids and homeless people getting in through the fences yes it happens but they are then tresspassing as the property is locked and closed to the public and should they get caught doing damage will be prosecuted.It is quite clear that you have a passion for alexander park as you live by there( Why not join the friends of alexander park ) but you have to look at the whole of ipswich where the budget is used.Alexander park had a new childrens play area put in a few years back at a huge expense and it is a very small park compared with the likes of christchurch/chantry holywells/and bourne park.I would say that for a small works dept at the parks they do a very good job of keeping our parks looking great and safe for all users
Kai F
I just want to clarify something- I do know the area and was brought up out in the sticks in Leiston.I have only just moved back to Suffolk, and have moved to Ipswich. I am aware of the other parks in ipswich, and that they are bigger, and generally in a great condition. I don't think that i should have to travel out of the town to walk my dog after work considering what traveling about ipswich is like at the moment (im relating to all the roadworks and improvements that are taking place). 
I understand the budget is stretched, and I wanted to voice my frustration that our parks are paying the price. It really looks run down and not a nice place to relax with the graffiti, broken steps, bent handrails, and general disrepair around the park. I think that if people get to use sites like this to highlight what they think is important in their local community and that is what I had aimed to do,
I'm sorry if i offended anyone in my topic, I honestly did not want that, or wish to upset people. However, I would like to say that before I mentioned this, I had not seen any improvements made on the state of the park in the 8 months I have been using it. However, the fences have already been fixed today, meaning that someone was listening  :-). And I am grateful for that.
Michael H
Kai your best bet is to report this damage to the parks manager and i am sure they will look into your concerns and act if they feel the work is neccesary for the safety of the users
Ben R
Kai, I read what you've said and I raised this issue with the councillor in charge of parks, Bryony Rudkin, at the South West Area Committee on Thursday evening - because I get just as frustrated at the locking of Stone Lodge Lane park.

She said she would take a look at the times at which the parks are locked, because at the moment they are locked at "dusk" which is a very moveable time! If the times at which the parks were locked was more structured, it would improve things for park users.

She wouldn't look into leaving the parks open all night because of their concerns about park users getting hurt in the dark, and because whenever it has been proposed all local residents who live adjacent to the park object.

There is a lot of evidence from parks across the country that leaving them unlocked at night improves the use of the park by local dog walkers, reduces the vandalism, reduces the interest for kids to break in and cause damage.

I agree with you that these are our public parks. The council tax we pay, going up again in April, is what keeps them looking so nice (and many of our parks are award winning). And yes, there are tight budgets, which is why it makes so little sense paying park rangers to drive around town clearing the parks and locking them up. Surely it is more sensible to spend that money on the park, rather than on preventing access to the public.

I would urge you, Kai, to go along to the Central Area Committee meeting, which is at the Reg Driver Centre in Christchurch Park next week (Thursday, 7th March, 2013 7.00 pm), and raise it with your councillors. If those who want to use the parks in hours that suit people who work keep on at them, change will happen.
Felix F
I agree that it is lovely to be able to use the parks in the early evening (and even to be able to walk back from a night out in the town ..) but I am not sure I want to pay for the number of extra rangers we would need to do this.

Because we would need them - I hate to think what it would be like if the kids play area wasn't checked and there were broken bottles there - or needles... And it wouldn't be just there - lots of areas would have to be checked.

So, for the moment I put up with the parks shutting early - but in the summer I definitely want to be able to stay out in the park until at least 10 I admit!

I suppose I'm saying there isn't a right answer - just the best one you can afford - or  are prepared to pay for in council tax!
Ben R
Why would there be more broken bottles and needles than there are now Felix? If more people were using the parks, they would self regulate, surely?

Why should we pay for public parks at all if we can't use them. Parks closing before 5pm in the winter mean people who work can't walk their dogs when they get home from a normal office job. Is it any wonder the pavements get more dog mess on them during the winter? (And yes, in common with other responsible dog owners, I clean up after mine, but too many don't).

There are ways to make savings, or do things differently, without putting up council tax. Not that this council ever looks for them of course. 

But the central point is, if they didn't close the parks at all, they could redeploy the park rangers to doing their central job - improving the parks! It isn't as if closing the parks prevents the vandalism or anti social behaviour.

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