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Private events in parks "nothing new" say Tory councillors
Passionate pleas were heard from the public gallery at Hendon Town Hall last night as Labour councillors called for the withdrawl of plans to hire out parks for private events.
Councillor Kath McGuirk moved a motion for cabinet to “remove these proposals from their budget”, but while the bid was unsuccessful, campaigners have vowed to fight on.
Brian Plen, of Finchley, a member of the Say No to Victoria Park Events campaign, said: “It’s not the end. Primarily we’ve got to change our tactic. We’ve got to maintain pressure on the Tory caucus”
His wife, Noreen Plen, said the difference between this proposal and the events they already endure is the type of event.
She said: “There’s been plenty of trouble in the past but we’ve tolerated it because they’ve been open events for the community.
“The difference here is that it would be for a select group who are paying for it for private use.”
Shouts of “shame” from the public gallery interrupted Tory councillors as they defended the proposal.
Cabinet member for environment Councillor Brian Coleman defended the plans, saying the council had hired out its parks for years.
He said: “There is much misinformation on this. The council has the right now to close any park in the borough for five days of the year. We have the power to rent them out to commercial events now.”
Cllr Coleman said the areas that were being considered were small, such as five per cent in Victoria Park. A statement from Cllr Coleman said: "Our consultation has been about making our parks available to a wider community while raising deperately needed revenue in order to keep our parks in first class order."
A further statement from the council denied that whole parks would be considered for private hire, but the response to the same query at a residents' forum this week said: “If it was appropriate to close a park (this is the current position practise also) for a large event this would be considered.”
Councillor Dean Cohen said: “I think we need to put things into perspective here – indeed the parks are not for sale. The proposal is to rent them out.
“This is nothing new, it’s been happening for years.”
The proposal names eight pilot sites to be hired out for functions such as weddings and bar mitzvahs between April and July each year.
The predicted revenue from this proposal is £30,000 - an amount campaigners say is not worth the damage and disruption the events could cause.
Consultation on the proposal ended on January 16.