Investigation over reports of children being ‘too terrified’ to go into public parks due to anti-social behaviour

Councillors are to take action over concerns that school children are “terrified” of visiting public parks across the Wakefield district.

A meeting heard growing numbers of children are fearful of anti-social behaviour from older teenagers and adults. Members of Wakefield Council’s climate change and environmental well-being scrutiny committee plan to look into the problem. Committee chair Tony Wallace said he was “taken aback” during a meeting with students from Castleford Academy.

Coun Wallis, Labour councillor for Castleford Central and Glasshoughton ward, arranged the meeting with youngsters to discuss issues in the town.

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He said: “Although it was a pleasant meeting, I was surprised to hear how so many are scared of going into parks. This includes during the daytime.”

Clarence Park in Wakefield, which is connected to the adjoining Thornes Park.Clarence Park in Wakefield, which is connected to the adjoining Thornes Park.
Clarence Park in Wakefield, which is connected to the adjoining Thornes Park.

Coun Wallis said he asked youngsters to give a rating, on a scale of one to five, on how they felt about going into the town centre and local parks, with one being “terrified” and five “not a problem”.

Coun Wallis said: “Most said three for the town centre but for parks they all said one. I was just taken aback about just how scared they were. It really was surprising and I think we need to do something about it.”

Public parks in Castleford include Queen’s Park, Savile Park, Valley Gardens and Smawthorne Welfare. Coun Wallis said he had concerns that the issue is a “district-wide problem”.

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Mohamed Ayub, councillor for Wakefield East, said similar problems had been raised at two police and communities together (PACT) meetings he had attended in his ward.

He said: “Certain play areas are not being used any more by children or young people. They are being used by adults for drinking and other activities.”

Coun Ayub said bags of empty drink cans and needles had recently been removed from a park in his area. He said Wakefield District Housing is now prioritising targeting anti-social behaviour in children’s play areas under its control due to a rise in reported incidents.

Coun Ayub added: “It does feel like it is a problem in certain areas of the district.”