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Drugs, antisocial behaviour and festivals: Heated meeting hears neighbours’ concerns about safety in Finsbury Park

PUBLISHED: 17:37 27 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:39 27 July 2018

Resident Cathy Edis speaks from the floor at the Friends of Finsbury park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Picture: Polly Hancock

Resident Cathy Edis speaks from the floor at the Friends of Finsbury park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Picture: Polly Hancock

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With a rape and a murder in Finsbury Park in the last seven months, the Friends of Finsbury Park held a heated meeting for neighbours to discuss safety – but floor time was dominated by concerns about festivals. The Gazette was there.

The ambulance in Seven Sisters Road at the junction with Portland Rise. Picture: Keith GreywoodThe ambulance in Seven Sisters Road at the junction with Portland Rise. Picture: Keith Greywood

Drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and a steady stream of huge music festivals are making Finsbury Park “feel unsafe”, according to people at a meeting in St Thomas More Church on Wednesday.

Friends of Finsbury Park (FOFP) organised the event to discuss safety in the park, but the fallout from Wireless Festival and its subsequent licencing review largely dominated the discussion.

The chair of FOFP, Simon Hunt, presented a survey about safety in the park, saying 250 people had participated and that the results were “damning on the council”.

When asked: “Do you think Finsbury Park is a safe place?”, 50.9 per cent of respondents said they felt either unsafe or very unsafe.

Friends chair Simon Hunt at the Friends of Finsbury Park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Picture: Polly HancockFriends chair Simon Hunt at the Friends of Finsbury Park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Picture: Polly Hancock

The survey will be published in full by FOFP next week, but Simon added: “I met with [Hornsey and Wood Green MP] Catherine West on Friday and she is concerned about this and wants to increase police in the park and review licensing.”

It comes after a woman in her 40s was raped near the Seven Sisters gate to Finsbury Park a fortnight ago, and seven months after the murder of Camden barmaid Iuliana Tudos in the park on Christmas Eve.

When pressed on his support for locking the park gates at night, Simon said: “It’s less a case of trying to keep the bad people out as it is the good people out. Police say most crimes at night are with tourists and lost people going through the park.

“If you can’t guarantee it is a safe place then we should not be allowing people to move through it.”

The Finsbury Park Gate in Seven Sisters Road, near to where a woman was raped two weeks ago. Picture: Ken MearsThe Finsbury Park Gate in Seven Sisters Road, near to where a woman was raped two weeks ago. Picture: Ken Mears

When the focus inevitably turned to anger at Wireless Festival, Sally Billot, of Woodstock Road, who has lived in the area since 1982, said: “This park was designed by the Victorians to give local residents a lung of green space.

“It is oppressive going there when there is 12-foot fences near the kids’ playground.”

She added: “It used to be a community park but the hassle that Haringey Council has had with Alexander Palace means they will never agree to another independent park.”

There is currently a a change.org petition with more than 400 signatures calling on Haringey, Hackney and Islington councils to work together and tackle issues such as rubbish collection, drug dealing and homelessness.

Friends of Finsbury Park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Friends chair Simon Hunt, Cllr Eldridge Culverwell (speaking) and Clive Carter. Picture: Polly HancockFriends of Finsbury Park meeting on July 25 at St Thomas More Church. Friends chair Simon Hunt, Cllr Eldridge Culverwell (speaking) and Clive Carter. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cllr Eldridge Culverwell (Lab, Stroud Green) said Haringey’s overuse of the park for large-scale festivals amounted to a “desertification” of the land and added that the metal fencing had made it feel like a “gulag”.

And Clive Carter, a trustee for FOFP and ex-Lib Dem councillor, encouraged people to submit evidence to the Wireless licensing review before its August 2 deadline.

This prompted a testimony from Catherine, of Stroud Green Road, who said: “I run in the park but was unusable but to after the festival as it felt unsafe.

“After Wireless on the Monday morning it was full of rats – it is disgusting and it must be an environmental issue.”

Another man claimed he had reported open drug dealing outside Lidl in Seven Sisters Road, but cops told him they were “only bothering about the guys with machetes” because of the festival.

Then a man identified as Gary told attendees he had struggled to walk home against a tide of revellers after leaving the Liam Gallagher concert on June 29.

He said: “It was dangerous and it really was a crowd control issue.

“I even overheard the police saying it was unsafe.”

Mohammed Sayed, deputy imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, added some Muslim people had been intimidated during the events, and that Wireless clashed with Ramadan.

There is a closed meeting on July 31, where representatives from FOFP will meet Catherine West.

Bruce Kent, vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and former chair of FOFP, told the Gazette afterwards: “They [FOFP] are taking on a very powerful force in Haringey Council.

“There is creeping privatisation of the park and that is a problem.”

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