Thompson Park (Credit: Jeremy Segrott, Wikimedia Commons)

Fires, needles and loud music… the reality of life next to Cardiff’s ‘antisocial park’

‘Would you like it next to your back garden at night?’ asks one resident about Thompson’s Park

Fires burning late at night, needles left on park benches, loud music until all hours and even people having sex… that’s the reality of living next to Cardiff’s Thompson’s Park according to one resident.

It’s a view not shared by everyone in the community, but one man contacted The Cardiffian to describe the level of anti-social behaviour that led council officials to lock up the park for extended periods over Christmas.

Cardiff council decided to start closing the park at 3.45pm on December 12 after a rise in reports of antisocial behaviour in the area. Now Canton’s community is torn over whether Thompson’s Park should be open all hours. Cardiff Council is reviewing the locking policy and is currently locking the park shortly before sunset.

Mike Sparkes of Greenfield Avenue, which is right next door to the park, contacted The Cardiffian describing the anti-social behaviour he frequently witnesses at Thompson’s Park at night. He was one of many residents who wrote to the council asking for the park to be locked earlier.

“We put up with, on a regular basis, youths fighting, shouting loudly in the early hours of the morning, playing loud music, people having sex, alcoholics drinking from bottles and drug taking,” he said. “The needles are left on the bench where children sit at the back of the park.

“Fires are lit in there and we see the smoke rising at night regularly. It’s such a worry.”

“It’s not good enough,” he added. “Would you like it next to your back garden at night? Some poor father was shouting through the fence for them to be quiet as he was trying to get his baby to sleep.”

Thompson’s Park (Credit: Jeremy Segrott, Wikimedia Commons)

Huw Williams, another local resident from Lansdowne Road, used to visit the park every morning at 6 o’clock before opening hours changed. During this time, he made friends with John, 97, and George, 76, and they met up every morning.

“It’s a very tricky situation,” said Mr Williams. “For me, the most important thing is for it to be open for the people who live there.

“John lives two doors down from Thompson’s Park’s side entrance and has lived there his whole life – when the parks shut, we don’t see him in the morning, and we worry about him. This is one of the ways we check up on him every day.

“We see the same small group of people every morning. It’s like a mini community and everyone has their own slot!

“Maybe a way to combat this would be to create a system where volunteers from the community open and shut the gates – therefore the times could be regulated better. I don’t really mind the locking system overnight; they usually go with daylight – but I feel like when it’s dark at 3.45 and they shut it – it’s much too early.”

Victoria Park is another popular Canton park where the locking arrangements are being reviewed (Credit Eirian Jones)

Tabitha Ndiaye’s two children both attend Radnor Road Primary School, which is a two-minute walk away from Thompson’s Park. She believes the park is a vital part of the school’s community and shouldn’t be shut as early as 3.45pm.

She said: “One of the school’s selling points was the park being just down the road. It’s such a lovely place; whether it’s wet or whether it’s dry, there’s always some children from the school at the park.

“It’s just really valuable. I think both from the perspective of being able to play outdoors and for mental health and physical health. They run around. They go up and down the hills just to blow off steam after school.

“Also, for parents, I think we’ve often met a lot of new parents who just started at the school. It’s a way that they can get to know each other and be part of the school community, which is much harder when you’re at the school gates.

“We’ve really missed it. Everybody feels disappointed and feel like it’s a shame that it’s been closing so early. It feels like you have one or two incidents [of anti-social behaviour] and then that’s it – it’s closed for everyone.”

A council spokesperson said: “The Council takes incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour in Cardiff’s parks and green spaces seriously and locking arrangements at Thompson’s Park were temporarily resumed in mid-December following a number of reports of anti-social behaviour in the park after dark. Residents were asked for their views while the temporary arrangements were in place.

“Following an incident in the park at the weekend, the park will continue to be locked overnight while all feedback received from residents, Park Rangers, and South Wales Police, is reviewed.”

Residents can email to give their opinions and feedback on the issue.

+ A 57-year-old man from Riverside has been charged with assault, possession of cannabis, criminal damage, possession of an offensive weapon and using threatening words or behaviour following an incident in the park on Sunday afternoon.