Threat to shut town’s skate park at night if ‘Rule of Six’ flouting continues

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skate park new milton
A group of 60-70 youngsters was spotted at New Milton skate park last weekend

POLICE have called for the closure of New Milton’s popular skate park at night amid reports a “minority” of youngsters have flouted Covid-19 restrictions by gathering in large numbers.

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Members of the town council’s amenities committee discussed fencing off the facility on the recreation ground, off Whitefield Road, after local safer neighbourhood Sgt Kat Smith reported a group of 60-70 youngsters were spotted there last weekend.

This breach of the government’s Rule of Six legislation to reduce the spread of the virus led to Sgt Smith’s suggestion the skate park should be closed during the hours of darkness.

Some committee members felt the night-time closure would have to be enacted, while others argued the skate park’s users needed to be educated instead.

Sgt Smith said current legislation made it difficult for officers to enforce the matter as they could not issue fines to people aged under 18 who failed to comply with the regulations.

Monday’s virtual amenities meeting heard chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden had visited the site with Cllr Steve Clarke and spoken to users as well as parents.

The councillors’ conclusion was that the “vast majority” of youngsters were behaving responsibly.

Cllr Blunden added Covid marshals were expected to patrol the recreation ground as well as areas including Station Road, but were not expected to be introduced until around mid-November.

“Closing the skate park from dusk till dawn is a reasonable request, but I have to point out that operationally it would be difficult and costly,” he said.

“We would need to erect [temporary] fencing and a gate which would have to be locked at the end of the day and unlocked at the start.”

Town clerk Graham Flexman told the meeting that caging the facility and manning its closure was expected to cost around £1,500 per month.

Although describing a potential closure of the facility as a “tragedy”, Cllr Steve Davies felt there was little choice but to follow the police advice as the law was being broken.

His view was supported by fellow ward councillor Valya Schooling and Cllr Robert Murrow.

Referring to the costs of the fencing and staffing, Cllr Clarke argued there should be further discussions with the skate park’s users to try to avoid it.

Cllr Madeleine Craze asked whether the council’s youth services manager, Silma Ramsaywack, was involved in talks with the youngsters as she had a good relationship with them.

Unconvinced a night-time closure was the solution, Cllr Dean Samber warned this “would only move the problem somewhere else in the town”.

Cllr Alan O’Sullivan argued the situation was not helped by some of the government’s regulations which he felt could be very confusing for youngsters.

“When they’re in school their whole year group is together, but when they’re out of school they have to be in a group of six,” he said.

Cllr David Hawkins argued the skate park’s users were old enough to know their responsibilities. He said: “We as adults try to follow the regulations, and the youngsters using the skate park should also follow them.

“We’ve got to be a bit sterner than that, I’m afraid.”

It was ultimately agreed that the council would continue to engage with youngsters and review the situation with police after three weeks before deciding on any further action.

Cllr Blunden concluded: “Our youth officer and town councillors will try to educate the children and youth of the ramifications of not abiding by the rules.

“We will make it clear that if there is no improvement we will have no alternative but to take further action.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi NM&T
    My name is Hayden I worked with Silma last year with the Youth council.

    as you can see the general consensus at head office of the councilors of New Milton is that the skatepark needs to be closed or that the users need to be educated. Personally, it would be extremely hard as Cllr Dean Samber has a great point as it “would only move the problem somewhere else in the town”. Correct, at least somebody knows what they’re doing there.

    This article only seems to cover the “youngsters” and the fact that apparently most of the “youngsters” are doing as they’re told but there are some that are ruining it for others. I can see how this is an extremely difficult situation for the police and the council, but I can say now that the only person that’s cared about the skateparks wellbeing is Silma and she’s only mentioned in a few lines in this article which is silly. the rest of the information is from reports from police (where they HAVE to attend, not where they want to attend as they should ) and to say that the rest of the council merely care about the skatepark is funny to me. they’ve not spoken to anyone there within the last 3 years.

    most of the people at the skatepark are there to ride whatever they want sensibly and being a user of the skatepark, I can see that everybody is respecting social distancing laws where they’re in affect even if there’s more than 6 at the skatepark. Kids don’t understand this and they can’t be handed fines so education would be the way to go because I can guarantee that these kids are not going to be going home. the fact is that the council said they were going to be working on a new youth development project, a new youth club however the skatepark has had no news on this said project. maybe if it was developed a little bit more WITH the help of the council all working together instead of making Silma do all of their out of touch work the youth would have somewhere to hang about. I understand that its difficult with Covid being the main problem happening at the moment but until the youth have a place to go then they’re still going to loiter at the skatepark. it’s just a shame that the people actually trying to use the skatepark are being slandered in the paper because the government cut funding to the old youth center. did you know that crime has risen 50% in town since the closing of the youth center and now the skatepark is being blamed for it? funny isn’t it.

  2. I forgot to mention the litter pickers from the church that do a great job helping out the skatepark do also a great thanks to them.

  3. Even if it does get shut down I am sure the kids would find a way to enjoy themselves and I would encourage them to do exactly that, they are outside enjoying fresh air not stuck indoors in front of a TV and good for them. 60/70 youngsters eh? I think Sgt Kat Smith needs to learn how to count, aren’t Police just loving the control they have over people at the moment.

  4. I’m sorry but I think 60 70 youths spotted at skate park is an extreme exaggeration in numbers . Yes maybe 60 70 youths across the whole park as there are many areas where skate park is situated . Maybe if you council asked youths of the area to give them some ideas of what could be done to improve facilities for them to go to and get some idea of there thoughts a conclusion could be brought together to accommodate within reason more for them to get involved with . Im 41 and had the same issues in my youth living in totton with lack of places or activities to do and being moved on from parks at night where we d just go to another and so on leading to police arrests for breach of peace for simply refusing to move from locations after moving on by same officers 3 times prior which no harm was being caused for us to be told to move on in first place.

    If there was more youth spots to go to or activities to get involved with in what interests them you wouldn’t have half the said numbers in one place at once . ( Even though that number is a massive over exaggeration my step son regularly visits here ). I’m an artist and music producer and have been in the industry for over 25 years . I Would be more than happy to get involved as a volunteer in youth work or workshops for interested youths to learn music production and an aray of subjects and fundimentals in the music industry.

  5. Wow really. Has it come to this. These parks were built to keep our so called youth busy and not be on our streets. Science has proved that children do not carry the virus or contract it. It has now come to a point where children have been locked up enough now. Their own mental state and wellbeing by far out weighs this so called virus. If you are at risk then stay the **** in, it’s that simple. Allow society to still happen

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