MEETING OF TERENURE-RATHFARNHAM AREA COMMITTEE (1)
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
HEADED ITEM NO. 6
The following report on RATHFARNHAM CASTLE PARK was adopted.
To address the issue of anti-social behaviour at Rathfarnham Castle Park, particularly at night-time, and to assist the Gardai in their ability to enforce the law as it relates to trespass and public order offences, the Parks Department and the OPW have committed to pursue the principle of night-time closure of the gates of Rathfarnham Castle Park to enhance security and discourage access to the Park outside of normal park opening hours. To advance this matter, the Parks Department have identified that three entrances to the Park under the control of the Council are suitable for locking at the present time – at The Woodlands, Castleside Drive and on Rathfarnham Road opposite the Yellow House.
In this regard, the Council placed notices on these three gates on 6th March 2009 notifying members of the public of the Council’s intention to close these gates at night-time with effect from 6th April 2009. The notices were displayed for a two week period to include two weekends. The proposed opening times for the gates are from 8am on Monday –Friday when the gates can be opened by staff in attendance at the Parks depot in Rathfarnham Castle Park and from 10.30am on Saturday and Sunday when they will be opened by Park Rangers who will travel from Tymon Park to open the gates having completed gate opening duties in Tymon Park at 10am. The gates will be closed by the Park Rangers, again travelling from Tymon Park and the closing times will vary seasonally as follows:
4.00pm – November, December, January
5.00pm – February, March
6.00pm – April, October
7.00pm – May, September
8.00pm – June, July, August
These closing times are one hour before the closing times for Tymon Park to enable the Park Rangers to travel to Rathfarnham, clear the park and lock the gates before returning to Tymon Park to complete the same duties there before park closure. Members of the public were invited to submit written observations or comments on the proposed closures either by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter addressed to the Senior Parks Superintendent, Parks and Landscape Services, South Dublin County Council, County Hall, Tallaght, Dublin 24. The closing date for submissions was 5pm on Friday, March 20th, 2009.
A total of 20 submissions were received from individuals, public representatives and resident’s groups which included petitions from both the Rathfarnham Castle Residents Association and the Rathfarnham Wood Residents Association. Submissions in favour of the proposed night-time closure highlighted the night-time nuisance and disturbance experienced by local residents from anti-social behaviour in Rathfarnham Castle Park. Some residents favour the principle of night-time closure but expressed reservations with regard to the proposed opening and closing times.
Submissions received from residents of Rathfarnham Wood were primarily in opposition to the proposed night-time closure of the gates for a variety of reasons as follows: the proposed opening and closing times are not in accordance with the times that local residents require access into and through the park. In particular, the proposed opening time of 8am on weekdays does not favour those who wish to access early morning buses or to walk dogs in advance of going to work and the proposed opening time of 10.30am on Saturday and Sunday does not favour those who use the shortcut through the park to access local church services at an earlier time. Submissions also cited the inconvenience of taking longer routes along the public roads to access village amenities outside of the proposed park opening hours. The proposed closing times were also an issue for people who wished to access the park for recreation in the evening and to use the shortcut to the amenities of Rathfarnham Village.
A meeting was held on 1st April, 2009 at Rathfarnham Castle to discuss the submissions received and identify a means of progressing with night-time closure of the gates whilst simultaneously addressing the concerns raised in submissions received. In attendance at the meeting were representatives from both Rathfarnham Castle and Rathfarnham Woods Residents Associations, officials from the Council’s Parks Department, officials from the Office of Public Works and representatives from An Garda Síochána, Rathfarnham.
Considerable discussion took place with regard to issues raised in the submissions received by the Parks Department. It was generally accepted that anti-social behaviour at Rathfarnham Castle Park is not a new experience but the advent of the new playground has brought about a change of location and focus for anti-social activities within the park. Officials from the OPW outlined the nature and extent of vandalism inflicted on the Castle itself while the Gardai confirmed their difficulty in law enforcement and pursuing prosecutions whilst access gates remain open at night-time implying consent for trespass.
Arising from the discussion of the meeting, agreement was reached in principle between all parties present to the objective of pursuing night-time closure of all access gates into Rathfarnham Castle Park but subject to agreeing more flexible opening hours than currently proposed. In order to achieve early opening of the park to accommodate residents who use the park to access buses, the church, village amenities and to exercise and walk dogs, a proposal was put forward for further consideration whereby a number of local residents could become keyholders for the park gates to open them early in the morning. A further proposal to be considered is the installation of locking mechanisms on the gates which would operate on a timer to release the gate locks at an agreed time. The gates would still have to be closed manually in the evening by the Park Ranger service.
The Parks Department iscommitted to engaging in further discussion with both the Rathfarnham Castle Residents Association and Rathfarnham Wood Residents Association to explore the times and means of implementing night-time closure of Rathfarnham Castle Park. In the meantime, it was proposed that the Parks Department would continue to progress the matter as follows:
· To implement closure on a pilot basis of the gates from Castleside and The Woodlands in accordance with proposed opening and closing times as advertised. This will be reviewed after a month to examine any issues that arise and consider the suitability of the opening and closing times.
· The existing access from Rathfarnham Road and car park is currently without a gate. The OPW have recently submitted a planning application which includes proposals for the provision of a new gated boundary at this location. In the interim, it is proposed to erect a temporary fence and gate to enable night-time closure of this access point.
· The Rathfarnham Wood entrance to the park is currently accessed via an anti-cycle gate and it is proposed to progress with installation of a new lockable gate which will remain unlocked at night in the short term pending agreement with the Rathfarnham Wood Residents Association with regard to the operation and timing of its opening and closing.
The proposed night-time closure of the access gate opposite the Yellow House is deferred until it can be implemented in tandem with agreed arrangements for the gate from Rathfarnham Wood.