I don't fully understand where or how the consulation on the "antisocial" behaviour is being conducted, and am only usually around at weekends - I wanted to add a comment but found I could not, so I'm posting up the letter I sent to Kevin. I am concerned that this is moving forward without any real debate:
 
 
Dear Kevin
 
Thank you for your consultation letter, I've been meaning to reply for some time. I understand that you have tried to come up with a creative and pleasant solution to a problem which has been raised by some residents. However I am strongly opposed to the proposal as the flat/ter areas of the park are an amazing and precious resource, used by people from all around the park and further afield, especially in the summer time.
 
I live almost opposite the park gates and am there every Friday and Saturday night, and often out in the park on Sunday mornings, and I can honestly say that the level of nuisance that I personally perceive is miniscule - a few raised voices and (rarely) music late at night, the inevitable higher volume of litter. At the same time I see people of all ages (local families as well as young people) enjoying picnics, hula hooping, and light games such as Frisbee and French cricket etc
 
Bristol is a fantastic city but one of the few things we lack is this kind of open space - you only have to look at Castle Park in the summer to see how much it is appreciated and used. I understand the kind of behaviour and policing issues that may come up, but if the city centre can be policed, theoretically in support of private bars and clubs and inebriated people, then surely something as socially valuable as this can be too.
 
Please therefore do weigh this side of the argument properly before proceeding at the behest of what might be a relatively small number of people.
 
Kind regards
 
Wolfgang Kuchler
 
71 Effingham Road
Bristol
BS6 5AY
 
Tel 07851 313 697

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I completely endorse the sentiments here. I work and live not on but close to the park so whatever 'antisocial' behaviour goes on is not particularly in my face. However I go there often and more to the point so do my two teenage children.
Have they been consulted?
Have people who use the park from outside St Andrews been consulted?
I have to say this is not consultation as I know it.
Becky

I agree with you, Wolfgang.

What we have here is an attempt to inhibit anti-social behaviour by inhibiting very social behaviour, too. (Phrases like 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater' and 'cutting off our nose to spite our face' come to mind.)

Unfortunately, I no longer live near the park but until 2011 I walked my dog there every day - sometimes three times a day. It was wonderful to see, on the relatively few hot, sunny days of the year, the large, friendly gatherings of individuals and groups in certain areas of the park.

One of the spin-offs of these sunny gatherings was the presence of the people practicing activities such as juggling and tightrope-walking. These things bring a charm and uniqueness the St Andrews park that it would be a shame to lose.

The idea of a wildflower meadow is lovely, but let's remember that what that really means is an area of the park where the grass doesn't get cut at all throughout the season. As a conscientious dog-owner, I know that the most difficult terrain to scoop the poop from is the long grass. And, of course, the poop is harder to find there, too.

Then there's the question of the café. We had to fight to keep the very special café in St Andrews park. There are days, cooler or wetter, when the cost of running the café must far exceed the takings. The larger groups of people in the park on good days no doubt contribute to the survival of the café.

Let's be very careful about what we decide is best for the park and its community. Let's consider very deeply what the real consequences may be of what is proposed.

In the words of Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone!"

 

Best wishes,

Ches

 

Having read the proposals again, I must say I'm concerned by the partisan language used to describe them. It sound very much like the decision has already been made, at least by some...

To demonstrate what I mean and in the spirit of playing devil's advocate, below I offer an alternative version:

 

Over the last seven years, predominantly social behaviour has increased within a particular area of St Andrews Park, during the summer months.  Residents around, and people using, the park have been able to observe activities including playing, picnicking, newspaper reading, strolling, dog walking, sun-bathing, chatting and singing to name a few.  This behaviour continues into the evening on occasions and causes local residents and their families no distress whatsoever.  The behaviour is particularly visible near the corner of the park along Leopold Road and Maurice Road, and residents here have an opportunity to witness people really enjoying themselves and the amenity of the park.

Avon and Somerset Police have proposed a potential antidote to these activities which has been supported by a few of the residents of the neighbouring properties.  Bristol City Council is being consulted and if agreed there is a risk that the plans will be implemented by the spring and summer 2014.

The proposal is to grow untended beds of long grass and wild plants in the main affected areas preventing large groups congregating and having inoffensive fun or just relaxing together in this corner of the park.  This will in turn deter many other activities from taking place as it will change the nature of this much enjoyed corner. 

This wild plant approach has been tried, rather unsuccessfully, in the past, over by the pond. Dogs love these areas, the smaller ones being able to do their business unseen by their owners.

As the soil will not have been broken or raised from the ground in any way, during times of snow fall, the untended areas will not deter sledging. Everyone loves the noisy, commotion and shrieks of dozens of people of all ages as they repeatedly queue, slide down and climb back up the slope for hours on end, from early morning till the sun goes down. And everyone loves the muddy grassless slick that appears when the snow melts, don't they?

 

Best wishes,

Ches

All sounds pretty grim and I have experienced similar in many parks, and it seems right to look for solutions, but preferably ones that don't penalise the overwhelming majority. These pictures I took last Saturday show the other side I hope. Couple more to follow if I can

Attachments:

Hi Wolfgang,

Your pictures are a bit hidden at present, as they can be viewed only in your comment.  It is not difficult to post them in the photo area of the website if you want to do so, where more people will see them.

Jo

Ches,

Can I just correct your use of the term ' wildflower meadow' and clarify what such a meadow is? The area by the pond is indeed a wild flower meadow, and as such has a high proportion of wild grasses growing among the native wild flowers that also grow in it. All these plants - grasses and wild flowers - are cut back at the end of the flowering season,  but because they are almost all perennial  plants, they spend the winter in a dormant state before bursting into new growth the following spring/summer. This wildflower habitat is therefore, a 'permanent' feature of the park and as such provides a habitat that is very attractive to a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, both in terms of a variety of food sources (living and dead vegetation, nectar and pollen) and as a place offering safety and shelter from predators. Of course, safety is a relative thing, and birds and other predators such as toads are attracted to it because it harbours a variety of food, including seeds as well as insects ( I found a number of young toads in the meadow recently that were clearly using the meadow as a source of invertebrate food). So although you may see the meadow as an unsightly and 'unsuccessful' development that is prone to misuse by dogs and their 'turning a blind eye' owners (and I accept this does happen), it provides one desperately needed (for a range of wild life) small area in the park which is not a homogeneous stretch of regularly shaved grass.

When, therefore, you say: 'The proposal is to grow untended beds of long grass and wild plants in the main affected areas' you are completely wrong. In thinking that the ASB measures will employ the same 'untended beds of long grass and wild plants' you have completely misunderstood what is envisaged in the plan to help combat ASB. The two spirals of flowers that were sown this year on the Leopold Road side of the park will give you a good indication of what is being aimed at. These are essentially temporary features in that they are grass free and composed only of annual flowers, which are chosen for their value as a source of colour and as pollen and nectar sources. Most, if not all, these flowers are garden species rather than native wild flowers. At the end of the flowering season in late autumn, if left alone they will completely die off and could then very easily be reseeded or turfed with grass. In other words, the planned sowings of just annual flowers will represent a completely different appearance to the wild flower meadow. If the experiment proves to be unsuccessful in reducing ASB then the original mown grass appearance of these areas can be easily and quickly re-established.

It should be pointed out, however, that the Green Flag award the park first received in 2012, did come with one criticism: that the park had too much in the way of areas of mown grass and too little in the way of areas of flower diversity.  The sowing of the original spirals of annual flowers this year was seen as both a partial response to this criticism but also to the growing recognition of the importance of providing vital supplies of pollen and nectar for our rapidly declining populations of pollinating insects. Surely as users of the park we can tolerate a bit more of its largely green acres being given over to some eye catching annual flower displays. More importantly, in the long term we will be xdoing our bit to provide a valuable resource for our local honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and other insects, without which a lot of our plant foods would no longer be available.

 

Ches,

Can I just correct your use of the term ' wildflower meadow' and clarify what such a meadow is? The area by the pond is indeed a wild flower meadow, and as such has a high proportion of wild grasses growing among the native wild flowers that also grow in it. All these plants - grasses and wild flowers - are cut back at the end of the flowering season,  but because they are almost all perennial  plants, they spend the winter in a dormant state before bursting into new growth the following spring/summer. This wildflower habitat is therefore, a 'permanent' feature of the park and as such provides a reliable habitat that is very attractive to a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, both in terms of a variety of food sources (living and dead vegetation, nectar and pollen) and as a place offering safety and shelter from predators. Of course, safety is a relative thing, and birds and other predators such as toads are attracted to it because it harbours a variety of food, including seeds as well as insects ( I found a number of young toads in the meadow recently that were clearly using the meadow as a source of invertebrate food). So although you may see the meadow as an unsightly and 'unsuccessful' development that is prone to misuse by dogs and their 'turning a blind eye' owners (and I accept this does happen), it provides one desperately needed (for a range of wild life) small area in the park which is not a homogeneous stretch of regularly shaved grass.

When, therefore, you say: 'The proposal is to grow untended beds of long grass and wild plants in the main affected areas' you are completely wrong. In thinking that the ASB measures will employ the same 'untended beds of long grass and wild plants' you have completely misunderstood what is envisaged in the plan to help combat ASB. The two spirals of flowers that were sown this year on the Leopold Road side of the park will give you a good indication of what is being aimed at when these germinate and eventually come into flower. These sowings are essentially temporary features in that they are grass free ( therefore cannot be termed 'meadows') and composed only of annual flowers, which are chosen for their range and vividness of colour and also as pollen and nectar sources. Most, if not all these flowers are cultivated species rather than the native wild flowers that are selected for wild flower meadows. At the end of the flowering season in late autumn, if left alone they will completely die off and could then very easily be reseeded or turfed with grass. In other words, the planned sowings of temporary beds of annual flowers will represent a completely different appearance to the wild flower meadow. If this experiment proves to be unsuccessful in reducing ASB then the original mown grass appearance of these areas could be easily and quickly restored.

It should be pointed out, however, that the Green Flag award the park first received in 2012, did come with one criticism: that the park had too much in the way of areas of mown grass and too little in the way of areas of flower diversity.  The sowing of the original spirals of annual flowers this year was seen as both a partial response to this criticism but also reflected the growing recognition at a national level of the importance of providing vital supplies of pollen and nectar for our rapidly declining populations of pollinating insects.

Surely as users of the park we can tolerate a  fairly small part of its largely monotonous green acres being given over to some eye catching annual flower displays. More importantly, if we do adopt this procedure on a regular annual basis, even if it has a limited effect on reducing ASB, in the long term we will be doing our bit to provide a valuable resource for our local honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects, without whose help a lot of our plant foods would no longer be available to harvest.

To correct Ches Chesney, the wildflower meadow near the pond has been one of the park's success stories thanks to Simon and Jo, adding biodiversity to the park by attracting some fabulous invertebrates in the last couple of years. I visit it almost every day in the summer to photograph insects and there isn't a particular problem with dog mess in the meadow. The flower spirals intended to deter anti-social behaviour are completely different. They are just planted beds similar to the rose beds, which are unlikely to cause problems with dog mess.

I can't honestly see what the problem is here - the flower beds are an attractive feature and hardly represent a fascistic response to perceived ASB imposed on the community by the faceless powers-that-be. We can have both. People can get pissed out of their heads and we can have nice flowers too. Sorted.

Des, I'm sure you're absolutely right about the wildflower meadows. I'm just trying to encourage a healthy, critical appraisal and debate of the proposed solution to what is probably a problem both of ASB and of adequate policing.

The wildflower meadow idea is designed to prevent anti-social behaviour by preventing everyone from gathering in the way they have been used to for years. Yet it's only a small minority of those who gather that behave badly. Why penalise everyone? There are people who cause accidents on the roads by habitual, bad driving, but no proposed solution that prevented all drivers from using those roads would be taken seriously...

Well if you want a debate, it helps if you get the facts right first. I just find all this sound and fury about a flowerbed is somewhat disproportionate. While I don't want all park users to be micro-managed by the police, I do think excess noise and intoxication can and does conflict with the enjoyment of the park for many other members of the community. To pretend that there is no ASB problem is hardly a useful contribution to any 'debate'. I think the flowerbed idea is quite a creative one and well worth trying.

Hi everyone,

Just to remind you that, in addition to the debate on-line here, Kevin Parsons, our beat officer,  has asked for feedback about this idea - you can contact him directly, 

PC 1414 Kevin Parsons

Kevin.parsons@avonandsomerset.police.uk

It's not about wildflower meadows which are obviously brilliant, but about where they are. Re the consultation, I have not received a reply or any feedback, and I also went down to the park on Saturday between 6 and 7 to see if there was some sort of stand or patrol doing consultation (it says 6-7 on the posting on FOSAP) but I saw nothing - by quarter to seven it was getting dark anyway - can anyone help, has anyone on our site spoken to Kevin or been party to any consultation?

 

 

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