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
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.
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 main problems reported
- Endless noise beyond midnight,
and once through to 5.30am
- Late night drinking of
- Scout hut windows and
fencing vandalised nearby
- Children frightened off
- Abusive and threatening
behaviour aimed at passers-by
- Motorbikes ridden on the
- 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
- Increased graffiti in
the underpass and nearby foot paths threatening the existence
of the Millennium Mural which had been untouched for almost two
- 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
- Residents woken during
- Stones and rocks strewn
- Fences broken down
- Evidence of fires on pathway
to park and under skate ramps
- No toilet facilities or
- No first aid readily accessible
- No CCTV security camera
- 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
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!
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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,
www.ukskate.com, 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.