Fears of ‘after dark mayhem’ for local play park

FEARS are high a Bloomfield play park could become an antisocial ‘mayhem’ hot spot after the council refused to lock its gates at night. Residents at the Bangor estate have expressed an array of concerns after the council announced that all play parks would be unlocked at all times across the borough from April 1st. The popular play park is situated in the heart of the estate next to residential housing and a green area, and local residents are fearful it will become a night-time hang out spot attracting anti-social behaviour. As well as generating unwanted vandalism and noise for nearby residents, there are concerns that young children could injure themselves on broken glass left around the play area. Following concerns from local residents and elected representatives the council has agreed the play park, which is near to the Twelfth of July bonfire area, will be locked from July 10 to July 13, as in previous years. The council stressed that only seven of their 80 play areas across the borough were locked at night and said the play parks will be monitored during this ‘trial period’. However, Isobelle Hamilton, Bloomfield Community Association chairwoman, has hit out at the council’s failure to consult with local residents before taking the decision to stop locking the play park at night. She said: “There has been no consultation with the communities, it is just ridiculous. We were just told that from April 1st the council has decided that play parks will no longer be locked at night, so they will be open 24/7.” Isobelle voiced fears for children’s safety saying: “It just takes one piece of glass for a child to be cut. The bigger ones will be causing mayhem and home owners will be giving off stink about the noise.” Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Isobelle said there had been anti-social behaviour problems at the park. “We had great concerns before Covid as they were setting fires in the play park and they had damaged it a lot. There was glass and bottles everywhere and people immediately came to the community association.” However, Isobelle explained: “As it is council play park we have been told that the community association are not allowed to go in and brush it up if there is broken glass. We have offered to lock up the park and re-open it but to no avail.” Outgoing North Down MLA Stephen Dunne has expressed his disappointment at the council decision not to lock Bloomfield Play Park in the evenings. He said: “It is very disappointing that the council has decided not to lock the Bloomfield Play Park in the evenings. I share the concerns expressed by the Bloomfield Community Association about the risks for young children who may use the play park during the day that there could be broken glass around the play area. “The council must review this decision and ensure that they maintain and service this popular and well used play park. We need to see an improved level of investment from Council in our communities, not a reduction.” Alderman Wesley Irvine also voiced concerns saying: “I would have major concerns with the council deciding not to lock up play parks in the borough, particularly the Bloomfield play park which is situated beside a bonfire site. “This play park has been open for some years now and the locking up of it has largely worked well over that time, it’s a practice I would like to see continue.”