Thursday 16 October 2014 at 7:30pm
Sports Pavilion, King George V Park, Bonnyrigg
Minutes (of first part- Skatepark)
Community Councillors: Darius Namdaran (Chair), Elaine Ferguson (Treasurer), Mike Moore, Cam Scot, Brian Scott, Gibby Scott; Ruth Scott, Dougi Stewart, Moira Wilson.
Visitors- a number of visitors attended the following provided their names: Paul Glynn; Ian Baxter; Bob Constable; Jordan Paterson; Connor Nelson; Pearce Sheridan; Declan Henderson; Joseph Brennan; Leigh Miller; John Fisher; Stuart Bruce; John White; PC Ian Hutchison
Apologies: Apologies were received from Jo Lee, and Derek Milligan.
Welcome and Introductions
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and advised visitors that the Community Council is made up of concerned citizens and its purpose and chief role is representative; to consult the local community and to make known to the local authority and other public bodies the views of local people on all matters affecting them.
Discussion about the Skate Park
The meeting recognised that Bonnyrigg Skate Park was becoming an increasingly important facility for the young people of Bonnyrigg but that it was not without its teething problems and the Community Council was anxious to find ways to support its safe development for the future.
A number of concerned residents, including a number of users of the Skate Park, attended the meeting. In addition, the Community Council had received a number of written representations from local residents who were unable to make the meeting.
In general the consensus view was that the Skate Park was a very welcome addition to the facilities provided for young people but that something had to be done to tackle the anti-social behaviour that was being displayed by a small number of young people.
Points from residents living close by the park and by parents of young people who use, or might use, the Skate Park:
- Need to find a way to support the decent youngsters who want to use the park. The problems were caused by a minority;
- The problems manifest themselves at night time, during the day the Skate Park was mostly trouble free;
- The problems were spilling out into the town having already had a negative effect on motorists and the church premises and the Co-op had reported an increase in shoplifting;
- One resident reported problems selling his house which he had had to withdraw from sale;
- There was nothing to support the young people using the Skate Park (no toilets, café etc.);
- There was no lighting in the area;
- The fact that the Leisure Centre was closed allowed trouble to build in the dark, isolated areas which were largely unused or otherwise accessed by adults;
- Many parents were frightened to let their youngster use the Skate Park and the park more generally;
- Significant and dangerous bullying was rife as was smoking and drug taking, in fact one parent reported that their child had attempted suicide as a result of bullying;
- Litter was a problem;
- The graffiti was disgusting and disturbing;
- The public were frightened to speak out to the youngsters who were causing trouble;
- Police support was needed;
- In other Skate Parks charities were working with the young people providing a structure and purpose to their activities;
- Lasswade Athletics Club which used the park for training in the evenings was becoming scared to expose their young members to the trouble which spills out from the Skate Park.
- Very strong views were expressed about the need to find a way to keep the Leisure Centre open for use by the Community. This was seen as a key element to keeping the area around the Skate Park vibrant, well lit and used by a variety of people in the evenings making anti-social behaviour less likely.
The young peoples who used the Skate Park added the following points:
- The Skate Park was a state of the art facility which they welcomed and wanted to enjoy;
- The Skate Park was used by around 100 people each week who just wanted to be left in peace to enjoy their sport;
- The problems were caused by a minority of young people (around 8-10) who came along to the Skate Park to loiter about and to cause trouble, drink and take drugs: they were not interested in skateboarding or biking;
- These people needed to be moved on as they were ruining it for those that wanted to enjoy the facility;
- They bullied people, took drugs, set fire to rubbish bins, vandalised the area, put pins and other objects into the bowl and threw objects at skateboarders causing danger for users;
- The graffiti was offensive and obscene and needed to be removed;
- The area needed to be well lit;
- The Skate Park was too close the play park
The local Councillors were invited to give their views.
Bob Constable indicated that he was there to listen to the community views. He reminded the meeting that the Skate Park took a long time to set up, costing significant amounts of money and was a welcome addition to the facilities for young people in the area. He was pleased that so many people had come along to the meeting as he wanted the Skate Park to be a positive thing for Bonnyrigg.
Ian Baxter expressed his anger at the way things had turned out. In his view the short sighted decision made by the Council about the future of the Leisure Centre and its refusal to allow the Bonnyrigg Hub was unforgiveable. The decision was not yet final and he urged concerned citizens to write to the Leader of the Council demanding that the building be handed over to the community. In his view, the use of this building in the way envisaged would go a long way to supporting the young people using the Skate Park. The proposal for the Hub would have been cost free to the Council; instead the Council was having to spend untold sums of money sorting out the problems at the Skate Park.
Derek Milligan had given his apologies for the meeting but had send a message indicating that there were plans to pressure wash the graffiti, the area would be inspected weekly and there would be extra litter patrols.
PC Ian Hutchison indicated that the police were aware of the problems at the Skate Park and that Police Scotland was working in partnership with other agencies (Community Learning and Development; Mid and East Lothian Drug and Alcohol Partnership; Local Councillors and the Land and Countryside Manager for Midlothian) to tackle the issues. He tabled the attached paper detailing the action which was already in hand, including improved lighting which was expected to be in place by the end of October. However, he indicated that, according to police statistics, the Skate Park was an area of reducing problems over the last few months. He reminded residents that they needed to report problems to the police when they happened so that they were aware of the extent of the problems that needed to be addressed.
The following action points were agreed:
- The Community Council had arranged for the local press to be at the Skate Park at 12 noon on Saturday 18 October 2014 with a photographer to hear first-hand the experiences both positive and negative of users and local residents. Everyone was encouraged to be there to take advantage of the opportunity offered.
- Individual letters should also be sent to the papers to raise the issues.
- The Community Council and individual residents should write to the Council Leader and Local Councillors: detailing the issues that needed to be addressed; reminding them of their duty of care to the young people using the Skate Park; asking what was being done to address the problems; strongly supporting a reversal of the Council’s decision regarding the future of the old Leisure Centre and asking for it to be handed over to the community for future use as proposed by the Bonnyrigg Hub.
- The use of social media for these exchanges with Councillors was strongly advocated as a more public means of raising the issues.
- Volunteer helpers on a Friday and Saturday evening should be sought to provide a positive adult presence to support the young users of the Skate Park.
- CCTV cameras and good lighting should be sought for the area as a matter of urgency.
- The Community Council would post information on its website and Facebook page to raise awareness.