To lock or leave unlocked?

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Do you lock your parks at the end of each day or are they left unlocked? Why do we lock parks? Protect items and features from theft and vandalisam and/or protect park users from harm such as open water?

If your site is open without fencing or gates this is not something you will have to deal with. If your site has perimeter railings or a fence with gates its highly likely to be an issue. Is it madness to invest a high level of public money in the park and then leave it unlocked? We often get asked this question and there is no right or wrong answer, but here are some things to consider before the decision is taken.

Is the park locked just because it always has been? Could the large expensive of the locking up / unlocking operation save money to allocate elsewhere? How secure is the site after locking?  If the gates are locked is access still relatively easy if the gates or perimeter fence are easily climbable or could access easily be gained through neighbouring properties?

Will locking create management issues to do with legitimate access when the park is locked ie. residents and evening sports based within the site. If you propose locking up you need to be aware that there are likely to be protests from those who want early morning access such as dog-walkers, commuters and  joggers. If the site is to be left open it is likely to raise pressure for lighting? will anti social behavior increase?

I do think whatever the choice Vehicle access is an issue that is of importance as often major theft occurs only when it has been possible for thieves to be able to drive into the park in the middle of the night.

These are just some of the issues and I would be keen to hear your experience.

View Shaun Kiddell's profile Shaun Kiddell Apr 22 2014 - 12:26pm
  1. I recently visited two large parks that have many fragile items and are not locked at night Alexandra Park, Oldham and Clifton Park, Rotherham.

  2. View Shaun Kiddell's profile Shaun Kiddell
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 5 months ago
  3. Like all parks in Rotherham, Clifton Park is open to pedestrians 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  However, vehicles access is only available during the day.  This arrangement has been in place for many years (certainly longer than I have been working here).  Never having worked somewhere that locks park at night, it is difficult for me to comment on the relative merits of the two approaches.  I guess we manage OK because it is what we are used to.

    The fact that Clifton Park would continue to be accessible at all times was a given when we started developing our restoration project.  This informed our concept for the design and subsequent management of improvements.  Our aim was to achieve the highest possible quality and value for local people whilst ensuring sustainability.  We did this in many ways including the following:-

    • creating a secure walled garden and courtyard within the park providing a setting for projects and activities that require a degree of protection
    • following 'secured by design' principles in new buildings; for example, internal rather than external window shutters on the new Garden House resulting in a more attractive building and much less vandalism than we experienced with previous ugly shuttered buildings in the park
    • relocating a skate park from the middle to the edge of the park where it can be seen by passing traffic
    • selective removal and thinning of trees and other vegetation to improve visibility into and out of the Rock Garden and a number of footpaths
    • Bringing more staff into the park, including rangers, a dedicated gardening team, and other green spaces officers working out of a new base in the park
    • improvements to lighting and CCTV coverage, particularly around areas where most investment has been focused;  this is not seen as a panacea, but has proved invaluable on a number of occasions and acts as a deterrent
    • working closely with the Police and Safer Neighbourhood Team to monitor and tackle issues as they arise
    • bringing in extra security patrols at times of greatest need, typically summer evenings
    • encouraging and enabling regular park users to submit reports of any suspicious behaviour or other concerns.

    The rewards of this approach are that local people can enjoy the park and use it as a pedestrian route at all times (which in itself provides further protection), and there seems to be a much higher level of concern and respect for the park than previously.  We like to think that this is a more people-friendly (and realistic)  security policy than trying to exclude people for periods each day.



  4. View Philip Gill's profile Philip Gill
    Offline | Last seen: 4 years 2 weeks ago
  5. With reference to Alexandra Park Oldham, which Shaun has already referred to. We in Oldham have a policy of leaving the park open 24/7. In most cases this is respected by the users and often seems to prevent excessive damage caused by those people who would try under any circumstances to get in, including resorting to vandalism.

    Oldham’s parks are seen as an outdoor club with gardening staff operating throughout the day to provide the welcoming familiar face, not only a point of contact from information and education, but when things do go wrong from time to time, they are there to deal with these issues swiftly and give reassurance that the council is willing to listed and act on what is being stated.

    During the evenings and weekends in Alexandra Park, we have static SIA registered security guards who patrol the park and ensure that the park and its facilities are being respected. If they come across situations where they can see inappropriate behavior, they will be asked to cease or they will be moved out of the park.

    This approach seems to work well and is seen as a step up from the Park Warden who was often inappropriately trained to deal with the issues that confront us all in the modern day society. In addition to the static security, we have a 24/7 mobile team that operates across the other parks in the Borough they again provide the reassurance when something untoward is going on.

    We in Oldham want people to enjoy there greenspace and use it for its intended purpose and not be stifled by opening and closing times.

    The points that Phil has made are important to. It is vital that the offer that we give to the public is quality. People seem to respect things more when it is obvious that we take care of the park or greenspace that they are using, if you allow a park to fall into a state of decline, it discourages the decent visitor and encourages vandalism and anti-social behavior.

    The broken window syndrome springs to mind- if you allow a pane of glass to remain broken for any length of time this will lead to more breakages and ultimately the potential loss of a building.

    We experienced this in Alexandra park during the restoration when we took steps to board up the conservatory to protect the glass in readiness for the restoration. The locals though we were about to demolish the building and set about doing it for us. We see vandalism, we repair vandalism, we see graffiti we remove graffiti. By operating this model (extremely difficult during the current financial situation) we feel the park and the public benefit.

     There are many fantastic features in Alexandra Park that are free to enjoy, unrestricted by opening and closing times. Alexandra Park was officially reopened in 2004 following a grant from the HLF, although it is not always easy the park today has matured and developed into a far greater space that we could ever have imagined even with open access.


    Glenn Dale


  6. View Glenn Dale's profile Glenn Dale
    Offline | Last seen: 4 years 6 months ago
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