Monday, January 28, 2008

Skaters in Manchester protest restrictions

Manchester has some of he most restrictive laws on skateboarding in the UK. But skaters are doing something with a new protest and petition.

Petition to: Remove the Byelaws which ban skateboarding in Manchester's City Centre.

The Byelaws, introduced in 2001, prohibit skateboarding in Manchester's City Centre and criminalizes young people who, by skateboarding, are doing something physically active, socially engaging, constructive and creative.

The Government want to reduce obesity, increase social inclusion, encourage "play" activities among young people and reduce youth offending rates. The Byelaws oppose all of these aims.


It was organised by SkateMCR who have a good site here about the ban. Article about it here.



Flying squad ramp up
Manchester Evening News, UK -Jan 18, 2008

KEEN skateboarder 'Chris' travels more than 200 miles, all the way from Pontypridd in Wales to use the facilities Manchester has to offer.

Yet despite what appears to be a ringing endorsement of the city's ability to attract skaters to its facilities, Chris and his fellow skaters still feel Manchester needs to `pull its finger out'.

"I reckon a skate plaza in the city centre would be great so we could street skate without all the hassle of being asked to leave," says Chris, 23.

Byelaws prevent city centre skating and cover the big attraction for Mancunian street skaters - Cathedral Gardens, outside Urbis. Anyone found flouting the law receives a formal warning, and may be prosecuted.

Since these measures were introduced in 2001, more than 100 people have received verbal warnings and at least four have been taken to court, fined and ordered to pay costs.

The problem, though, can only get worse. Skateboarding has gone through a revival since 2000 and hundreds of skaters now flock to the city every weekend.

On one side of the debate, the skaters claim they're starved of decent purpose-built facilities, but on the other, the council believes street skating is anti-social to shoppers and tourists, not to mention expensive as the council has to fork out to repair damage to street furniture.

Lure

Yet the lure of skateboarding stretches beyond the city centre, across the length and breadth of Greater Manchester. A new skatepark at Stamford Park, Altrincham, is in the offing after police, community leaders and councillors agreed it was sorely needed to help get young people off the streets and engaging in and creative energetic pastime.

Teenage skater Nick James believes provision of more facilities is long overdue. "Skaters in Manchester really need a skate plaza, something similar to Urbis, but designed especially for skaters," says the 17-year-old.

"There aren't enough facilities. The one under the Mancunian Way gets wet if it rains because there are no walls - it makes it unusable."

That venue is council-funded, but Mick Regan, head of community activity at Manchester council, says the problem is keeping all parties happy.

"We have a lot of meetings where people have conflicting demands. We're heavily involved in the Mancunian Way skatepark. Along with the financial assistance, we also run the positive futures program, helping disadvantaged kids get involved with sports, like skateboarding."

The UK Skateboarding Association has raised concerns about the number and quality of the skateparks. Chairman Kevin Parrot believes there are too few indoor parks and the rest are badly constructed council parks.

Problem

Lack of suitable facilities shifts the problem back to the streets, where the skaters are drawn to places with the architecture and street furniture to hone their skills, such as steps, handrails and ramps.

But Cathedral Gardens is now out of bounds and two other favourite hangouts have also gone: the Gasworks is now under redevelopment, and the University of Manchester campus has introduced anti-skateboarding devices, like blister paving.

"I can understand why people prefer to street skate," says Paul Harrison, owner of The World Famous Central Skatepark. "The idea of exploring and finding new spots is the whole point.

"But I also think it's common sense that there are laws in place. I'm not saying people shouldn't street skate, I'm just saying it's unfair to try and demand that they're allowed to damage other people's property."

But a rebellion is brewing. SkateMCR was set up by disgruntled Mancunian skaters, fed up with the restrictions and poor skating facilities in the city. They want the bans lifted and have even petitioned the Prime Minister's website.

However, Steve Bass, who recently bought one of the region's largest skateparks, believes the real way forward is through cooperation between skaters and local councils.

Steve's UKskatepark in Stockport (formerly Bones) attracts around 200 people every Saturday. "Lot's of outdoor parks in Manchester are built by the local councils, who tend to order ramps out of catalogues and then plonk them somewhere with no thought to their set up," explains Steve.

"There's only one other indoor park in the city, Central Skatepark, and if that gets too busy it's almost unusable."

The all-weather concrete platforms around Urbis mean it has found itself at the centre of the debate. But chief executive Vaughan Allen is keen to show they embrace the city's skate culture. He said: "Urbis has adopted a proactive response to the problem by holding a number of skateboarding exhibits and events."


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