Guards set to patrol Gardens to stamp out vandalism

PRIVATE security guards are set to be hired to patrol some of the Edinburgh's most popular parks following a spate of vandal attacks – at a cost of thousands to the taxpayer.

City leaders have been forced to consider the move after vandalism at both Princes Street Gardens and Saughton Park over the last year.

The patrols – which would cost around 4500 a month – are only likely to be in place during the lighter months of the year.

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The bulk of problems in both parks have come in the early evening, when park wardens are locking up, or overnight when nobody is around.

Council chiefs today lifted the lid on the catalogue of problems at both parks in the last 12 months.

They include:

• A council worker being verbally abused after confronting youths vandalising Saughton's Rose Gardens.

• Teenagers caught on the roof of out-buildings at Saughton Park ripping off tiles.

• Council vehicles being repeatedly vandalised at Saughton Park.

• Memorial benches being tipped down the slope at Princes Street Gardens, along with chairs and other debris being thrown in the Ross Fountain.

Council chiefs say the damage has cost them thousands of pounds – with the damage to Saughton Rose Gardens costing 2000 alone. This has forced them to consider employing private security firms.

A fireraising attack on the Saughton Park play area in 2007 caused around 50,000 worth of damage.

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Currently, it is up to the council's park wardens to lock up and reopen both parks.

Opposition politicians today described the new security move as a "sad indictment of our society".

Gordon Buchan, the council Conservative group's culture and leisure spokesman, said: "The council are right to consider this, especially if you consider the cost of replacing a lot of the equipment which has been damaged by these attacks.

"But it is a crying shame, and a really sad indictment of our society, if we are reduced to having security guards patrolling our parks."

CCTV cameras are to be installed in Saughton Park later this year when work begins on a 750,000 new skate park.

The scheme was approved earlier this year, bringing a ten-year search for a suitable site for Edinburgh's first major public skate park to an end.

Some local concern about an increase in antisocial behaviour from the skate park was rejected by officials, who insist the CCTV and artificial lighting planned will help negate any problems.

In 2004, city leaders considered fitting CCTV cameras in Princes Street Gardens after several memorial benches were damaged and litter bins set on fire.

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The city's environment leader, Councillor Robert Aldridge, said: "The safety of our parks staff is a priority – as, of course, is the public's continued enjoyment of Edinburgh's beautiful parks and greenspaces. Two parks have been affected by the mindless behaviour of a tiny minority and, in response, we are considering a number of cost-effective options to improve security."