CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hundreds call for park to be closed at night as latest party scenes go viral

Lockdown revellers branded 'selfish' by top cop after residents faced 'unbearable' disturbances

08 April, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Parties filmed and advertised on TikTok

MORE than 450 people have signed a petition to close Primrose Hill at night after videos of the huge parties taking place in the park went viral over the Easter weekend.

The bank holiday saw thousands of people flock to the area despite coronavirus rules, with hundreds attending an illegal party on Easter Sunday which is believed to have been advertised on the TikTok social media app.

One video of the revellers that was shared on social media – mainly without masks and dancing with their arms around each other – provoked a torrent of angry comments online.

Camden’s head of police, Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, called the behaviour “selfish” and has revealed to the New Journal that a police action plan is being drawn up for the area.

The Metropolitan Police said they were called to the park on Sunday after reports of around 300 people described as “engaged in anti-social behaviour and playing music from a sound system”.

Officers are said to have dispersed the group but there were no arrests and patrols continued.

Hundreds gather in the park during mini “heatwave”

The gatherings were the latest incidents in a long-running saga that has been plaguing residents in Primrose Hill since last summer when organisers of unlicensed music events (UMEs) began taking advantage of the park’s open-all-night status.

Ongoing complaints include noise nuisance preventing residents from sleeping, anti-social behaviour, drug use and dealing, littering, and public urination and defecation. Some neighbours say they no longer feel safe in the area.

Problems that had calmed down during the winter months are now believed to be escalating again as the weather improves and some parts of the lockdown ease.

Last week, a mini “heatwave” attracted what was described as a “festival” to the park, during which a man dressed in a motorcycle helmet and high-vis jacket brandished a knife and ran into a large group of people.

No one was injured and no arrests were made but some residents saw the incident as confirmation of their fears over the possibility of someone being seriously injured in the park becoming reality.


Litter, public urination and drug use are among the problems faced by residents

Calls for the park to be gated and closed at nighttime, however, have been resisted, with Royal Parks manager Nick Biddle claiming it would be too costly and would not prevent people from entering the park.

At a meeting last week Mr Biddle said it was up to the police to enforce the park rules.

In response, a number of residents set up the petition which quickly garnered hundreds of signatures, including all six Primrose Hill and Swiss Cottage councillors.

Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli also wrote a letter to the Royal Parks this week asking they “acknowledge that there is an emergency, stop minimising the situation, and stop belittling the residents that complain”.

He said the Royal Parks were asking people to “tolerate a situation that is totally unbearable”.

Lucy Cottrell, who lives nearby, said there had been an “outpouring” from people in the area following the launch of the petition.


Residents say the situation has become “unbearable”

She said: “We started the petition to prove that what the Royal Parks is saying is wrong. It’s not a small number of people being affected by a selfish minority, it’s seriously impacting many, many people.”

Ms Cottrell added: “The stories people are telling us are truly shocking. On Easter Sunday people on Elsworthy Road were woken at 1am by a drunk man who had rung all the doorbells and was banging on the door, insisting he lived there and was trying to kick it down.”

Chief Supt Kohli refused to say whether or not he agreed on gating the park but said an action plan is currently being devised by the local neighbourhood force.

He added: “I am always concerned where there is drug dealing and a potential for violence.

“And from what has been said we will have an intervention. We always try to manage things proportionately but if having conversations with people and dispersing isn’t working then we will have to increase stop-and-search [and] increase enforcement, if that’s what it takes.”


Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli says an “action plan” is in the works

He added: “What we have here is a unique set of circumstances because the places where ordinarily drug-dealing takes place are no-go areas right now because there’s a lack of people there.

“When Camden Town is switched back on I think the dynamic is going to switch. But we do need to deal with what’s going on right now, because the park belongs to the public and right now it’s clear people don’t feel like that’s still the case.”

Chief Supt Kohli added: “I do, however, have to balance where we put resources because similar anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and so on is going on in other estates across Camden and Islington 365 days a year.”

He added that people, parents and guardians in particular, have to take “social responsibility” over the young people attending the parties.

A Royal Parks spokesperson said: “We are aware of this petition. This is wholly unacceptable behaviour and we are grateful to the police for all their efforts to manage the situation.”

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