More than 2,000 Wearsiders have signed a petition to call for the gates of Sunderland’s parks and cemeteries to be closed at night.
Sunderland City Council announced last month that 15 parks, gardens and cemeteries in the area will be open for 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of cost-cutting plans.
The sites were previously closed at dusk and opened at dawn by security staff working for a private company, paid for by the council.
The move is expected to save almost £80,000 a year for the authority, although CCTV coverage will still be provided in Barnes Park and Mowbray Park will still have its traditional opening and closing times.
Civic chiefs say the council is having to implement cuts of almost £50million from its budget this year, with in excess of £100million set to be slashed by 2020.
In response, the True Friends of Barnes Park group have started a petition to call on the council to reverse the decision after they raised concerns over the beauty spots becoming prey to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
“The residents made it clear they were very worried that the lack of security and 24 hour opening would encourage undesirable elements into the park, causing damage and encouraging anti-social behaviour.”Coun Peter Wood
Now, 2,000 signatures have been gathered for a petition which will be presented at the next full city council meeting at the end of this month.
The group handed over the petition to the city’s Conservative councillors, led by Coun Peter Wood, who are backing the residents’ pleas.
The city’s only Liberal Democrat councillor Niall Hodson is also calling for the decision to be reversed.
“The residents made it clear they were very worried that the lack of security and 24-hour opening would encourage undesirable elements into the park, causing damage and encouraging anti-social behaviour,” said Coun Wood.
“They have also had meetings in the park with council officers and discussed their concerns with them.
“Barnes Park is an award-winning park that has many beautiful features and has received £millions of investment - from Lottery sources amongst others.
“I would imagine those providing the money would share the residents’ concerns.
“The park is very attractive with visitors coming regularly from miles around - not just within the city - to enjoy its beauty.
“It is an asset of which the city can be proud and it is important to look after it properly.”
Coun Wood added: “The residents, like me, question the council’s spending priorities.
“We accept money is tight but wonder why £80,000 for parks and cemeteries security cannot be afforded when £250,000 to cover the salaries of full-time trade union officials working at the civic centre is, apparently, affordable.”
The meeting at which the petition is set to be presented takes place on Tuesday, June 28.