Greenwich Council have backflipped on a budget-cutting move to leave parks in the borough unlocked at night after a petition rallying against the action received hundreds of signatures.

The authority predicted it would save £9,000 if it stopped locking parks – one part of a four-year package of budget cuts approved earlier this year and slated to save the council £7.1 million.

However, residents feared leaving the parks open at night could expose them to damage and facilitate an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, with park user Carol Howcroft starting a petition to lobby the council to reverse the decision. 

“We are extremely concerned by Greenwich Council’s plan to move to 24/7 unlocking of Fairy Hill Park, Southwood Park and other parks in the borough that are currently kept locked overnight and call on the Council to abandon this proposal,” Ms Howcroft’s petition said.

“Keeping thse parks unlocked overnight will inevitably lead to an increase in crime and antisocial behaviour, and we do not believe the council has taken these additional costs (and not to mention, harm to local residents) into account”.

However, documents uploaded ahead of Greenwich’s Council meeting next week reveal the authority have since stepped back from the move.

In documents uploaded to the council’s website ahead of the meeting, the authority states the coronavirus pandemic had seen a “wider section of the community” realise “the value and importance” of green spaces in the borough.

The council added it wanted to “reassure residents they are properly cared for and protected”.

“Therefore, it has decided that it will start relocking parks overnight that were previously locked,” the council states.

Councillor Matt Hartley, a Conservative member for Coldharbour and New Eltham ward, welcomed the move.

“This is the second time in four years that the council has tried to leave our local parks unlocked at night, and the second time that the strength of residents’ opposition to the move has forced them to rethink,” he said on Wednesday.

“In the short space of time this policy was in place the police had already had to make increased visits, so this decision will come as a big relief all round.

“I am grateful to the council for listening and doing the right thing, and want to thank the 216 residents who signed the petition, as well as the Friends of Fairy Hill Park and other park friends groups who argued so strongly against this. We hope with this second u-turn the issue is now permanently settled.”