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Vansittart Road Recreation Ground

Newsletter 10th July 2001
Residential area "wrong place" for Skate Park

The following Newsletter was distributed to local residents in the days prior to the Official Opening on July 13th at 5.00pm. Following comments that the residents were trying to close the skate park, we take this opportunity to point out that while residents support the concept of facilities provision for younger members of the community, they feel that

1. The skate park should be effectively patrolled and supervised, with action taken against those who spoil the facilities for others,

or, if these steps fail to remedy matters,

2. Is in the wrong place and so should be relocated at Windsor Leisure Centre where all the required facilities are to hand. Vansittart Road Recreation Ground provides none of the required facilities, other than limited parking.

The reasoning behind these proposals are set out in the following.

A delightful setting for a youngsters' playground spoilt by a small minority of teenagers
attracted to the area by the adjacent skate park

The refurbishment of Vansittart Road Recreation Ground was completed at the end of May 2001. The alterations include landscaping, a children's play area, a skate park, the surfacing of Vansittart Road at that point, which had previously been just a muddy lane, as well as a small car park. In addition, fencing was provided to separate a dog walking area from the children's play area together with self-closing gates to keep dogs out of the youngsters' area.

How the Area has Changed

Whilst residents had high hopes that the costly project would improve the area, in the last six weeks they have seen at first hand a major change in the nature of this important Public Open Space. In and around what was a once a relaxing park, despairing residents now endure regular late night disturbances and noise, vandalism inside and outside the park, as well as a substantial increase in graffiti. Perhaps most worrying, abuse and intimidating behaviour aimed at mothers and young children has been reported as they try to play on the slides, swings and roundabouts which have been installed right beside the skate area.

Web Reports

Since the end of May, Thamesweb has been reporting and illustrating this sad state of affairs on The Royal Windsor Web Site. A leaflet distribution, designed to seek the views of residents nearby, resulted in a large number of complaints, many of which were included on the Thamesweb page devoted to Vansittart Road Rec.

The Problems

The main problems reported include:

  • Endless noise beyond midnight, and once through to 5.30am
  • Late night drinking of alcohol
  • Scout hut windows and fencing vandalised nearby
  • Children frightened off play equipment
  • Abusive and threatening behaviour aimed at passers-by
  • Motorbikes ridden on the skate equipment
  • Much increased litter - broken bottles and beer cans, spray paint cans, even a tin of blue paint and thick brush that had been used to deface the underpass
  • Increased graffiti in the underpass and nearby foot paths threatening the existence of the Millennium Mural which had been untouched for almost two years
  • Excrement inside skate area (quickly reported and removed)
  • Trees uprooted and snapped off on at least three separate occasions (on one recent occasion these were left on the ground for five days despite two reports)
  • Mothers and grandmothers reluctant to go near the area at certain times
  • Suspicion of drug use
  • Potentially dangerous mix of skate boarders and teenage BMX bikers at the same time
  • Racist abuse
  • Stones thrown at children
  • Damage to vehicles nearby
  • Fireworks thrown at young children
  • Residents woken during the night
  • Stones and rocks strewn around
  • Fences broken down
  • Evidence of fires on pathway to park and under skate ramps
  • No toilet facilities or telephones
  • No first aid readily accessible
  • No CCTV security camera (subsequently installed)
  • General lack of supervision, patrols or care of the installation other than litter removal

The vast majority of these complaints come from residents who have lived in the area for many years and examples of the problems have been photographed and illustrated on the Thamesweb area devoted to Vansittart Road Rec [Index to these articles].

Almost without exception, everyone living in the area is very disappointed that what promised to be a wonderful new facility has now turned into a disaster. So much so that some residents (including several young children) won't use the facilities or even walk by!

Borough Response

It must be said that when problems have been reported to the Borough, they have on occasion reacted quite speedily, especially when matters of public health were involved. But overall, the lack of supervision of the area, and the likelihood that the problems will not go away without a determined effort to eradicate the causes, leaves local residents very depressed about the whole project and what the area will become in the long term. Many are particularly concerned for the Millennium Mural, created by users of the Oakbridge Centre in August 1999 and until very recently hardly touched by the vandals. Regretably this is not now the case.

The Causes

Problems are undeniably created by the inclusion of a skate park as this is the prime attraction for those teenagers prepared to act in an unsocial manner. Although small, late night, groups of young people have gathered in Vansittart Rec in the past, they rarely caused any serious trouble or damage and certainly did not worry those living nearby.
Vansittart Road Recreation Ground is in a comparatively remote area because, although a main road passes beside it, the high hedges, trees and parking restrictions preclude even the slightest opportunity to observe undesirable behaviour. The park is situated alongside a 'cul de sac' at the end of a lane and so patrolling by car from this point requires a specific journey to do so, rather than a moment to stop, in a lay-by perhaps, and take a look around as would be the case at many other such areas around the country. Add to this the lack of lighting and other aspects such as understaffed and stretched police resources and the recipe for problems to arise is all too apparent.
Residents are also incredulous that the skate park should be positioned right beside the children's play area. It is just unbelievable that the two facilities could be installed within yards of each other. It must have been plain to those responsible for planning the Rec's refurbishment that the skate park would attract a large percentage of unruly teenagers who, in total freedom, can act as they wish.
It also seems plain that the problem is the result of the total lack of supervision in the first weeks of its existence. Inevitably the problems will remain throughout the life of the skate park unless a concerted effort is made to address the problems.

The Solution

The solution must surely be to introduce extensive and effective patrols of the area,
and if that fails, to install the facility at a separate location so that the causes of the problems can be effectively addressed.
The original plans included a three metre high fence around the skate park so that it could be securely closed at night, but many feel that the industrial nature of such a structure would be unacceptable in the recreation ground and merely further disfigure that area. It must be said that the high, dark steel ramps and railings, with the 'skate art' created by some of the skaters, is not the most attractive sight.
This aspect of security was originally included in the plans, and it is probably this assurance, that the park would be secured and closed, that meant the plans could be approved. The Borough need to explain to residents why these original plans were not implemented in full.
The following letter from a local resident succinctly explains protestors feelings.

Vansittart Road Recreation Ground

Firstly my objections to the above development stem from when the original plans were put out for public reaction. When I heard that the favoured proposal was the skate park/play area, etc. I contacted the local council to ascertain this was indeed the public view. What I was told was not convincing and I took them to task about what steps were to be taken to control access and the inevitable misuse of the amenities, i.e. at night, etc. I was telephoned by the Head of the Leisure committee in person to reassure me that everything had been considered. He reiterated the following undertakings as part of the development project:

The skate park and car park would closed at night.
Access to the park would be controlled by an overhead
Skate park would be enclosed using three metre high fencing.
Lighting would be installed on the new access road to the car park.
Lighting would be installed on the walkway from youth centre.
TV camera to be installed to control vandalism.
Provide Warden to supervise if required.

Needless to say there are several major omissions from what has actually been provided; many residents are disappointed with the current arrangement of the development.
As for the situation now, I walk my dog every night, typically between 22:00 to 24:00. The new facilities have become, (surprise, surprise), a magnet for groups of youths at night; sometimes until 02:00 in the morning. The number of youths can vary from 2/3 to 25; I have seen up to 50 at weekends. They are usually drinking, smoking (drugs?) and can be very intimidating to strangers.
Only last night there were 8 persons (2 females) drinking and being abusive to anybody who passed by. They then dispose of their bottles by throwing them into the nearby underpass. All in all, the existence of the skate park is unacceptable; particularly when sited next to a children's play area - it's just not on!

Name and address supplied

Many residents are keen to point out that they are not against the provision of the skate park facility per se nor are they blaming the ordinary, everyday skaters, indeed Thamesweb has already received emails from users of the facility pointing out that the vast majority of skaters are responsible members of the community, saddened by the actions of the few which so threaten their sporting facilities. It is doubtless therefore a series of problems caused by these few but exaggerated by less than clear thinking and effective action by the Borough.

Skaters Take Action

Today we hear from one skating enthusiasts' group that they are using their web site,, to encourage skaters to be on the look out for unacceptable behaviour and vandalism such as has been witnessed at Vansittart Rec and to report those responsible. This commendable attitude from the skaters themselves is much appreciated by all those affected in this area. 'Jam attracts wasps' and steps must be taken to identify those that bring the recreation ground into disrepute, not just by self-policing, but by all the relevant authorities.
It is the absence of the authorities, especially late at night, which 'the wasps' so revel in and that causes so much concern for those who live nearby!


We sincerely hope that residents' concerns will be addressed promptly so that peaceful nights may return to the area. We suggest that you make your views heard by councillors and Borough officials during the Official Opening at 5.00pm on Friday 13th July at the Recreation Ground.


The Vansittart Road Recreation Ground Index

Read about Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council's
(failed) plans to build on Vansittart Rec in 1947, 1952 and 1989

Local Matters Home Page

Stories from 2001

Stories from 1999-2000

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