Public treat green spaces as litter bins and toilets after lockdown eases

Litter Pic: Ryan Haggerty

By Shruti Nanda and Edward John

News that up to six people can meet outdoors has led to hundreds of people swarming to parks and green spaces in the Eastlondonlines area for picnics and drinking, causing a spike in littering and public urination.

Councils across South and East London are making attempts to discourage park goers and al fresco drinkers from littering the parks and using them as toilets.

Hackney council were also granted an interim injunction coupled with the power to arrest in an effort to prohibit large gatherings on Hackney Marshes after a number of unauthorised incidents.

This measure comes after hundreds of people gathered in Hackney Marshes on May 30.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney in a tweet said: “Every adult that visited one of our parks this weekend, got drunk (or not) made a choice to leave behind rubbish, piss against a tree or worse they’re morally culpable and should reflect on what they did. Council issued so many fines at one point we ran out of paper. It must stop”.

Jon Burke, Hackney cabinet member for energy, waste, transport and public realm, said: “Not only are people putting themselves and others at risk from coronavirus. – they’re placing an even bigger strain on the Council’s resources”.

Lewisham residents also claim that this sudden increase in park goers is having a detrimental effect on their day to day lives.

Ray Winnard, a mortgage advisor from Lewisham Hill who uses Blackheath to walk his dogs, labeled the amount of litter on the park as “astounding,” adding it was the worst he’d ever seen and blamed the government’s lockdown measures for putting too much pressure on parks.

Winnard, 58 said: “I walk my dogs on the Heath every morning and evening and usually it’s a very pleasant experience, especially at this time of year. But now parks are the only place people can socialise, it’s bound to get messy. There are bags of used alcohol bottles all over the place and the bins are overflowing with all sorts of rubbish”.

Councils are encouraging people to avoid gathering in groups of more than six people, unless from the same household and to return home to use toilets.

Lewisham Councillor Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for environment and transport, stressed it was the responsibility of park visitors to dispose of their own rubbish.

“We have made changes to working practices to protect staff as they continue to keep our parks clean and tidy, and notices are being put up requesting visitors to take their litter home with them and recycle it if the bins are full. We hope this will take some of the pressure off the frontline workers,” McGeevor added.

Even though the toilets in some of the parks have reopened, the situation remains grim.

Caroline Selman, cabinet member for community safety, policy, and the voluntary sector, Hackney said: “This weekend, despite the opening of public toilets and installations of additional bins, it was necessary to issue over 70 fines for public urination and littering in London fields and surrounding side streets.”

“Our enforcement officers are working closely with our park team and the police to keep our parks safe, clean and open,” Selman added.

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