Oxford residents and park users are being asked for their views on proposed changes to existing byelaws for the city’s 130 parks and open spaces.
Like most local authorities, Oxford City Council has a set of byelaws in place for its parks, nature areas and play facilities. These provide a basic set of rules around the use of these public spaces to ensure people behave in ways which respect the enjoyment, wellbeing and safety of others.
They also aim to ensure the protection of habitats, wildlife and the wider environment.
The Council has not amended its Parks and Open Spaces byelaws for over 25 years.
Changes to byelaws
The proposed changes include:
revoking old byelaws relating to ball games, climbing and wild swimming – these are no longer relevant or appropriate, and go against the pressing need to encourage more active lifestyles
amending byelaws to better reflect the way Oxford’s parks are used – for example, seeking public views on removing the blanket ban on cycling to allow considerate cycling in parks, as there are now cycle lanes through Cowley Marsh Recreation Ground and Donnington Playing Fields
making new byelaws to deal with new challenges and changing priorities that have emerged over the last 25 years, like e-scooters and the use of drones and sky lanterns
The changes propose to consolidate the list of parks and open spaces currently covered to ensure consistency and simplicity across the city. For example, Shotover Country Park will be included under the main park byelaws, where previously it had a separate set.
The proposed new list will include new play spaces created since the byelaws were last updated. These include those installed as part of the expansion of Greater Leys and where older, poorly sited play areas have been replaced, like the one on the corner of The Slade and Girdlestone Road. It will remove other sites subject to change of land use.
While byelaws can be enforced by council officers and the police, the Council’s main aim is to deal with breaches as informally as possible by talking to people in the first instance, or by issuing a notice requiring compliance.
If someone fails to take notice of advice given and continues to breach a byelaw, officers will take down details for use as evidence. Breaching a byelaw is an offence and someone deliberately doing so may be prosecuted.
The consultation is scheduled to run from Monday 12 February until Monday 8 April.
To ensure an in-depth and inclusive consultation process, the Council will engage directly with key community stakeholders, such as local park “Friends of”, groups, societies, and neighbourhood forums, to obtain their feedback on the proposals.
Oxford residents and park users can have their say on the proposals by visiting the Council’s consultation portal.
“At Oxford City Council, we want everyone to be able to enjoy Oxford’s parks and open spaces. To ensure that people can do this safely, we sometimes have to proactively tackle anti-social and nuisance behaviours that negatively impact users of our 130 green spaces. To help us do this, we have a set of byelaws – but it’s high time these were amended to reflect how our parks are enjoyed by everybody.
“The proposed changes are a long-overdue positive step towards creating a more accessible, pragmatic and sensible framework for users, to ensure a cleaner, safer environment within our city's green spaces.
“Most importantly, we are not doing this in isolation. We are committed to fostering a comprehensive consultative process with park stakeholders that captures the diverse perspectives across our community, ensuring their opinions contribute to shaping the future regulations governing Oxford's Parks and Open Spaces.”
Councillor Chewe Munkonge, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks