Gangs in Church Street park force young kids out

Parents have been forced to stop their young children playing in a Church Street park after Westminster Council removed its park keeper and ‘gangs’ of youths moved in.

Broadley Street Gardens, which underwent a �400,000 refurbishment last year, had its permanent park keeper replaced with a part-time keeper last month to save the council money.

But parents say the move has allowed intimidating groups of older teenagers to have free reign of the park causing “mayhem”.

Louise Hall is a parent governor at King Solomon Academy which is located directly next door to the park. Her two children used to play in the park every day after school.

“When there were park keepers around there were no gangs in there but now it’s happening every day,” she said. “Normally the park keeper would tell them to move on but now after school you get all the children going to the park to smoke and hang around. It’s a bit scary.

“My son would come out of school every day and want to go into the park but now I won’t let him because of all the broken glass and the teenagers about. It’s not a safe environment any more.

“They made the effort to turn it into a community park but now we can’t use it.”

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Fellow parent Fatima Azarkan uses the park on a daily basis with her own children and in her job as a childminder. She said: “The park keeper used to tell kids to leave if there were any problems and you felt safe because he could keep an eye on things.

“Now there are a lot more teenagers and also a lot more kids under the age of nine unsupervised. There would have to be an adult with them before but now they run riot.”

Cllr Ed Argar, cabinet member for city management, defended the move in the “current financial climate”.

“In making our changes we have sought to maintain a staff presence as far as is possible and a park manager continues to be responsible for this site, alongside other local locations,” he said.

“This staff member regularly visits Broadley Street Gardens throughout the day, and as he is based just walking distance away he is available to respond to any situations quickly and as required.”