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Wollaston grandfather slams park teen shelter plan
9:00am Thursday 21st March 2013 in News
Buy this photo Martin Hewitt looking out of his window at the park. Buy photo: 121305L
A WOLLASTON grandfather is urging campaigners to rethink plans to put a youth shelter on Swanpool Park amid fears it may increase anti-social behaviour.
The Friends of Swanpool Park hope to secure £5,000 to £6,000 for a new shelter for teenagers as part of plans to improve the South Road park.
But former vice-chairman of the group - Martin Hewitt, of Studley Gate, says he and a number of neighbours “totally oppose” the plan as they fear it will increase anti-social behaviour on the park rather than reduce it.
Mr Hewitt, aged 51, a grandfather-of-three, says he was the victim of a vicious attack outside his house, opposite the park, as he walked home with his wife Antonita after a night out.
The incident, involving eight or nine youths, left him with several broken ribs, four missing front teeth and a nasty cut to the eye.
It also left the self-employed window cleaner off work for eight weeks with no pay, a £5,200 bill for corrective dental work and “very nervous to go outdoors”.
He said: “If I wasn’t the size I am - I’m sure I would have been killed. All this for standing up to anti-social behaviour.”
Horrified at the thought that a new teen shelter could attract more anti-social youngsters and become a haven for underage drinkers and cannabis smokers - he says he raised his concerns at a Friends of the Park open day.
But he claims his fears fell on deaf ears.
Mr Hewitt, who stood down from the Friends group over a disagreement about how funds were being spent, said: “They will not be helping matters on this park - just making it worse.”
Norton councillor Colin Elcock, who is driving forward the Friends’ project, said: “We’ve held a full consultation with residents around the park.
“They’ve chosen a preferred location for the teen shelter, which is slightly further away from the road but it’s a good location - just near the allotments. I think everybody is happy with it.
“We’re looking into funding now we’ve got the okay to position it.”
He said the group may apply to the new Stourbridge community forum for cash and other funding options are being considered.
Plans to improve the park also include putting in eight new benches to the tune of around £2,500.
But cllr Elcock added: “The priority is the teen shelter - we want to get something sorted for the youths of the area so they’ve got somewhere to congregate away from houses.”
He said shelters in Wollescote and Netherton Parks had proved successful, adding: “If we can provide a decent location they can sit and have a drink and a smoke and talk to their friends. I think the youths will appreciate that.”
Alan Hoppy, chairman of the Friends group, said only 17 people had registered objections to the shelter plan.
Sergeant Keith Pagan, of the Amblecote and Norton Neighbourhood Teams, said the “park has always attracted youths during the evening” which has resulted in damage to fences backing onto Swan Street/ Park Road and noise nuisance near the the Studley Gate car parks.
But he added: “If the shelter attracts them away from these residential locations, I would consider this to be a positive.
“We have also suffered damage and broken glass in the children’s play area so a teenage shelter that steers youths away from the play area to their own shelter may also reduce these problems.”
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