Could volunteers replace Lincoln’s commons warden?

Lincoln residents discussed a future service to help protect Lincoln’s commons and green spaces at a meeting on September 7.

The special Commons Advisory Panel at the Grandstand, chaired by Carholme ward Councillor Neil Murray, invited suggestions on how the old Urban Ranger and Commons Warden roles could be replaced.

The Urban Rangers and Commons Warden ceased to guard Lincoln green spaces in July, as earlier in the year the posts were scrapped due to austerity measures.

Now, criminal or persistent complaints are usually handled by Lincolnshire Police or the City of Lincoln Council’s anti-social behaviour team.

However, there is an issue surrounding “low-level” matters, and how these are dealt with.

The meeting was attended by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick, and representatives from the City of Lincoln Council, Lincolnshire Police and the University of Lincoln.

Councillor Neil Murray held the meting to figure out how best to protect the green spaces in Lincoln, looking specifically at a “Commons Watch” scheme.

According to the antisocial behaviour team, there has not been a rise in incidents since the wardens left the commons.

The council will continue to tackle anti-social behaviour though even without the wardens service.

The ideas coming forward from the meeting mainly focused on numerous volunteer approaches in the community, that could be uniformed.

The service would probably not run in the evenings, but training would be provided by the council if such a scheme was set up.

Police backup

According to Chief Inspector Lee Pache, Lincolnshire Police feels that the wardens should have been kept.

The role helped police manage issues in green spaces which were too low-level for police to get involved — for example playing football on the West Common bowling green — and saved police time.

Lincolnshire Police states it will be unable to fill the void left by Urban Rangers and Commons Wardens.

However, it does intend to slightly increase patrols within wards with common land and will continue to respond to serious incidents on Lincoln greens and always remain a backup.

Police had two suggestions to put to the panel: Commons Volunteers to support police, and “Commons Trustees”.

A number of trustees would use a group text service to give each other a briefing of what is happening in green areas.

These notes could then be taken to the City Council, or if criminal to Lincolnshire Police, to help tackle problems.

This could pass on a message that there are eyes and ears watching Lincoln’s green spaces for issues at all times.

Meanwhile, PCC Alan Hardwick agreed with Lincolnshire Police’s stance, but can understand the austerity measures faced by the council due to the force’s own cuts.

“If people are aware of figures of authority in the area, it deters low level crime,” said PCC Hardwick.

The PCC attended the meeting to listen to ideas, and see if any of the suggestions could be taken on by volunteers or by future volunteer PCSOs.

Community pride

Other suggestions included adding the council contact numbers to boards around the common to help with reporting incidents, and also adding panels within the city, explaining what the commons are and their importance.

The University of Lincoln attended the meeting to also listen to ideas in order to see if student volunteers would be able to help.

It was suggested that giving students a role within Carholme and Park wards helping to protect the common would make them positively active within the community.

The students could also sign up to the 1,000 Volunteers scheme run by PCC Hardwick in order to help.

However, the university also has a duty of care, and would need to consider any risks before putting students forward.

Students would most likely be of better use in a “monitoring and reporting” role.

Volunteering from cadets, Duke of Edinburgh, probation services and even ex-offenders were also suggestions put forward.

Positive meeting

Speaking after the event, PCC Hardwick said: “This has been a very positive meeting.

“It just shows how many people in this county are willing to do something for their community, in the way of volunteering or putting themselves out for the good of other people.”

“I don’t know what the answer is to the withdrawal of the rangers and that service in Lincoln, but I do know that whatever problems there are, they can be solved by partnership working.

“That’s the message coming loud and clear from today’s meeting.”