A KIRKBYMOORSIDE town councillor has criticised the council’s decision to “ban” young people from parks after dark.

At a recent meeting, members of the town council agreed to put signage on the town’s play areas saying that the areas close at dusk.

But Cllr Derek Chapman has voiced fears that the signs will simply relocate anti-social behaviour instead of dealing with it.

“I would like us all to consider some positive solutions, which are built on respect for young people, and which will also support good behaviour in parks,” he said.

“Those most affected by this ban often do not have easy alternative safe community places to be, so they now go up on the hills, into Manor Vale and into the churchyard, or just wander round town.

“We already have protections for the parks, we have other rules (drinking/smoking/anti-social behaviour), so why must we have this absolute ban?

“The evidence gathered by the Unicorn Project was that Kirkby’s older youth desperately need some safe spaces to hang out and to just be young and independent in, with their friends, without judgement or agenda.”

As an alternative to the after-dark ban, Cllr Chapman proposed installing lighting in the areas and “tasking young people with some responsibility to ensure we keep parks working for everybody”.

The town mayor Angus Ashworth responded that Cllr Chapman had only given a “partial” account of the council’s decision.

“The change to play area notices to say that they are closed after dark was in response to the suggestion of the local police,” he said. “They advised the council that there had been a number of complaints of anti-social behaviour and said that a notice of this kind would help the police to curb it.

“A majority of councillors agreed to accept the police advice. The town council has a duty to consider citizens affected by bad behaviour as well as to support provision for youth. The notices are advisory and young people behaving sensibly are unlikely to be affected.”

He added: “For many years now, the town council has always been ready to support initiatives for young people. This has been reflected in financial support and use of facilities. All councillors support this policy, and it is likely to continue. We are all disappointed that the larger authorities have cut their support.”

However Cllr Ashworth added that the lighting proposal will be discussed at the next meeting of town council in February. “Lighting would be very expensive, and may not be the best way to spend public funds, but the proposal would certainly be considered,” he said.