22 May 2013 - Cabot Councillor: Be vigilant against a potential assault on civil liberties in the city
The council is about to begin a consultation on a raft of new by-laws to control behaviour in Bristol's parks and green spaces. However, Cllr Mark Wright is warning that the consultation could lead to a wave of "bans" across Bristol that restrict the freedom of ordinary people to enjoy themselves in parks.
Cllr Wright says "Of course it is right that the Council and police develop the tools to deal with anti-social behaviour and those who behave in a manner that damages property, harms wildlife, intimidates, frightens others, and so on. I support that - nobody should be racing motorbikes through a park, or camping overnight in it, that's obvious. But different groups of residents have different views of what parks are for, and history shows that groups will often try to stop the activities of the other groups."
"So when one group of people says ban BBQs in parks, another says ban skateboards, another says ban ball-games, another says ban music, another say ban drinking, another says ban kites; the danger is that the council will end up under pressure to ban all those things, which would be a massive infringement of our freedom to enjoy outside spaces."
Cllr Wright points out that most city centre residents don't have a garden, so parks and open spaces are the only place they can do things that need to be done outside. "I'm particularly worried that the views of people without gardens might be drowned out by those who have their own gardens and want to see a much more restrictive regime in parks. In particular, this consultation is happening over the summer period when students are out of town, so their voice is unlikely to be heard - this is totally unfair."
"Bristol is an unorthodox and diverse city with communities with diverse interests and behaviours, some of which annoy each other. It's important that communities show a good degree of tolerance of how their neighbours use community resources rather than turning to oppressive bans."
Cllr Wright urging all different communities to respond to the consultation to speak up as liberties are always much harder to gain back than to lose.