What can be done about it?
Just in case you don’t know, St Thomas’ Peace Garden (aka the Peace Gardens) is a small public park designated as a monument to peace and a memorial to all those killed in armed conflict.
Local Councillor Kath Hartley says:
“At the CCNF AGM last Saturday, a resident asked about possible plans to fence off the Peace Gardens (to prevent rough sleeping). ……..
……I followed up and have discovered that the plans involve only installing a suitable fence across the back of the old St. Thomas Church.
The church was completely fenced off for some years after masonry started to crumble, creating a danger for passers-by. Ladywood Councillors lobbied BCC to get the church made safe and to clear and open up the site- in 2014. After obtaining advice from Heritage England on the least intrusive way of securing the masonry, BCC had the work done, re-opened the area around the church and cleared the undergrowth.
Unfortunately, people who both sleep and live rough have returned to the shelter that the church provides………
Their behaviour has caused the Lord Mayor, Cllr. Ann Underwood, great embarrassment at War Memorial events, despite BCC Parks doing their best to sluice and clean the area.
Please see Trudi Maybury’s response below in red – Trudi works for the Parks in the Place Directorate.“
Trudi in the Parks in the Place Directorate in response says:
“…..let me start by reassuring you that there are no plans to build a fence around the entire square to keep rough sleepers out.
Sadly, however, the rear of St Thomas’ is being used as a human toilet and the urine and excrement up the walls is beyond disgusting. War Memorial Ceremonies are held at St Thomas’ throughout the year and the Lord Mayor was understandably embarrassed by this state of affairs and that’s despite Lee’s team trying very hard to keep on top of the situation by cleaning / jet washing the area.
In consultation with our internal Conservation Planning Officer and Heritage England we have looked for a workable solution to fence-off only the rear of St Thomas’ itself to prevent further access to it being used as a toilet. There is presently Herras fencing in situ and a permanent railing construct will be installed in the coming weeks – it in no way impinges on the rest of the Peace Gardens, but will protect this beautiful church tower from any further desecration.
We are concerned about displacement of the problem to The Colonnade, but we will continue discussions with Heritage England to tackle this.“
Subsequent to this Kath says:
“More good news re The Peace Gardens
– Trudi says that she has been successful in bidding for a gate/fence section that has been removed from Centenary Square. The gate was specially commissioned for the square at the time. She will have it installed at The Peace Gardens, not as a gate or fence, but as a ‘sculpture’. She has also bid in for some of the specially commissioned benches from Centenary Square for the Peace Gardens (complete with studs to deter rough sleeping) and awaits the outcome.
So, please could you allay City Centre residents’ concerns, both about the park’s being fenced off and about the problems arising from rough sleeping and living?…“
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Article and images by Geoff Caine Photography