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Calls for action at Stratford park after two attacked

A disturbing attack in Stratford’s Firs Gardens has ignited calls for more to be done to combat anti-social behaviour.

…… who was attacked in the Firs in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Mark Williamson F35/9/21/8474. (51275411)
…… who was attacked in the Firs in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Mark Williamson F35/9/21/8474. (51275411)

At the weekend Stratford bed and breakfast owner Paul Workman and his friend, Sandra Gittins, were subjected to a terrifying attack in the park, just yards from Stratford Police Station.

Paul, who is known as Stratford’s Mr Shakespeare for his role at the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations, said: “We were walking through the gardens between 9pm and 9.30pm on Sunday night when this guy pushed us to the ground. He began kicking Sandra and when I tried to get up he was pulling on my arm and he was spitting at me.

“We managed to get up and get away, but then he approached us again, grabbed Sandra’s handbag and fled. He ran up Grove Road but we think he went past Hotel Du Vin, out onto Rother Street and then up Scholars Lane because that’s where Sandra’s bag was later found. It had keys, credit cards, her purse, some cash, so we’ve been cancelling everything and fitting new locks.

“It was a really nasty incident, Sandra’s got some bruises and I’ve got some on my arm too from where he grabbed me. It really is about time something was done to reduce antisocial behaviour at the Firs, it’s very close to where I live and this has been going on a long time. You regularly find needles left in there, lots of rubbish and people sleeping.”

Paul added that he was disappointed that CCTV in the immediate area of the park appeared to be obscured by foliage.

Town councillor David Curtis, who until recently lived close to the Firs Gardens, has also added his voice to those demanding action at Firs Gardens.

He said: “The Firs gardens are adjacent to the town’s police station and overlooked by houses and passing traffic; they should be a safe green space for everyone to enjoy.

“While a serious incident is thankfully rare, the council’s policy of housing a disproportionately large number of vulnerable people in this immediate area, without sufficient support, has resulted in an increase in anti-social behaviour in the Firs which it has failed to address, despite complaints from local residents and requests for this cohort to be dispersed more widely across the district.

“Hopefully the opening of the Fred Winter Centre will improve the situation in the Firs, but it will need to be carefully monitored to ensure that this problem is not simply moved to other parts of the town.”

A spokesperson for Warwickshire Police confirmed that the incident on Sunday had been reported and that the victim had suffered a minor leg injury.

Inspector Ben Hembry of Stratford Police, told the Herald that officers regularly review areas where crimes occur to identify potential hotspots for anti-social behaviour and when these are identified police will increase their visibility in the area and potentially look at how crime can be designed out of such locations.

He said this approach had proved successful in other areas of Stratford and offered reassurance that all crimes reported to the police were taken seriously.

However, he added: “Aside from complaints raised about alcohol consumption at the First Gardens, the area is not considered to be a hotbed of anti-social behaviour. Having said that we are pro-actively working with partners to deal with alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and are looking at what measures are available across the town centre.”

The Firs Gardens were originally bought by renowned Stratford author Marie Corelli in 1910 in order to preserve them as an open space for the benefit of the town.

The area is now owned by Stratford District Council, which chose the gardens as the site of Stratford’s Peony Pavilion, a gift from the Chinese city of Fuzhou, in recognition of the increasing ties being the two destinations.

The decision to place the pavilion in the Firs was not without its controversy though, with critics arguing that it would become a distraction for motorists and encourage anti-social behaviour.

If you have any information about the assault in Firs Gardens on Sunday evening contact police on 101 quoting incident 441.

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