It doesn’t happen very often, but when there is a spell of good weather in spring or summer that coincides with university term times in particular, St Andrews Park can become a Mecca for fun and sun loving students and other young people. At such times, on maybe a maximum of 10 occasions a year, there can be hundreds of mainly young people enjoying themselves on the grassy slopes or under the trees.
Most are happy to maybe have a barbeque, drink in moderation, play music and just ‘chill out’ in the sun. However, there will usually be a small minority that seems unaware of basic rules of acceptable behaviour in such situations. These individuals leave copious litter scattered around them, can employ loud sound systems and not infrequently, instead of using the toilet block, revert to the perimeter hedge or even a nearby tree to relieve themselves of the excess amounts of drink they have consumed. Such unconcern for others is sometimes extended well into the night, to the annoyance of local residents around the park. This trend towards anti-social behaviour has been a perennial problem that has occupied much discussion time at Friends of St Andrews Park meetings over the last few years, with the police, local councillors and Council officers all involved. But it is a problem that seems intractable and has never been resolved.
A recent meeting in July attempted to examine these problems in a more determined way than in the past. Acting Sergeant Sean Underwood emphasised the importance of phoning in complaints of ASB to the police on 101 (or 999 for serious issues) so that these can be logged. Noise incidents should be reported to the BCC Environmental Health Dept (tel: 9223256 during normal office hours or 9222050 at other times).
The idea of classing the park as a Non-Drinking Zone is an issue that has been discussed before. Raised again here, it was pointed out by the police that this could only be considered if there was a high level of ASB reports received. Poets Park in Horfield was considered as a possible NDZ, but only because there was an average of 10 to 15 calls received per day relating to ASB. The figure for all complaints for St Andrews Park was a maximum of 6 per week, most concerning noise. Interestingly, a recent survey of 120 houses leafleted by Safer Bristol around the park produced only 9 responses in favour of a NDZ.
Other points that were discussed included the use of a Dispersal Order, serving of Noise Abatement Orders, and implementation of relevant bye laws. It was pointed out the first suggestion was unlikely to be of use unless supported by sufficient ASB reports. Any Noise Abatement Order would have to be carried out by officers from the Environmental Health Department and only if a request to reduce the noise level was not complied with. Application of bye laws was felt to be unrealistic given that most had been done away with over 30 years ago and that enforcement power for these no longer existed.
Clearly, although various types of anti-social incidents do occur in the park, they are relatively few and of minor consequence compared with those of some other open spaces in Bristol. Criminal activity in the park is negligible. The police not surprisingly have to prioritise their involvement and responses. However, it does seem that the police and BCC are taking the concerns of local people more seriously than in the past. Plain clothes police patrols now operate twice a week in the park and the meeting was told that StAndrews Park will be the Redland Beat team’s number one priority during hot weather, provided more important situations do not arise on those occasions. There is also planned to be a ‘day of action’ on Saturday, August 8th (if the weather is good) when both police and BCC officers will together be present in the park from 2pm to 7pm to observe and take action about any excessive noise.
A public meeting to further discuss these issues with police, local councillors and BCC officers is to be held on September 12th , 7.30pm at the Derby Road Bowls Club.