Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Anti-social behaviour returns to Woodlands as gate is left open

Failure to close Woodlands Playing Fields' gate at night can cause misery for local residents
Carmel Hanna MLA (inset) is calling for a meeting to discuss ongoing antisocial behaviour at Finaghy's Woodlands Playing Fields

Residents living beside south Belfast's Woodlands Playing Fields are again being tortured by anti-social youths because a gate to the park is not being secured in the evenings.

At an April meeting between residents, local representatives, Belfast City Council (BCC) and the GAA, it was agreed the council would lock the gate, according to a local representative.

And residents said things had been quiet while the gate was being secured, but “since around the middle of August” the gate has been left unlocked and gangs of youths are once again gathering and causing trouble for residents.

The residents are fed-up that they are having to put up with the problem again simply because no-one is locking the gate.

“We now know that when the gate is closed the anti-social behaviour almost disappears but when it is left open it happens again,” said one local resident.

He added: “They (the youths) are standing at the gate drinking and urinating — leaving the gate open is causing anti-social behaviour.”

Balmoral Sinn Fein representative Vincent Parker said: “The failure to lock the gate runs contrary to what Belfast City Council agreed to do at our meeting in April.

“They were locking the gate during the summer months and this saw a reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area.”

But again there seems to be confusion over who locks the gate in certain circumstances.

A BCC spokeswoman said: “The GAA have a facilities management agreement in relation to Woodland Playing Fields. We had agreed as an interim measure to ensure the gates are closed every evening.

“However, when GAA games need to continue after park rangers arrive to lock up then it is the responsibility of the GAA to lock up when the games are finished.”

The secretary of the GAA's County Antrim Grounds Committee, Ray Compston, said: “My understanding of it — and I am grateful to the council for this — is that the council would be closing the pedestrian gates as part of their park warden rota.”

Mr Compston said he would speak with the council to clarify the situation and discuss any problems.

He also said there have been very few GAA games over recent weeks — and the GAA always locks the gates when they are finished — so the number of occasions when GAA games need to continue after park rangers arrive would be small.

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