A Victorian park in Newcastle is being left “devastated” by festivals, heartbroken locals have complained.

Bosses have been accused of using the historic Leazes Park as a “cash cow”, after it suffered damage over the bank holiday weekend.

Residents returning to the park after it was used to stage the In The Park Festival, headlined by Rag n Bone Man and Tom Grennan, were horrified this week to see the aftermath of the event.

The Northern Echo: A brick pillar was damaged during the festivalA brick pillar was damaged during the festival (Image: LDRS)

One of the stone pillars at the entrance to the park off Richardson Road has been knocked to the ground, while the other has had to be tied to the railings to prevent it collapsing.

The damage is believed to have been caused by vehicles driving through the gates to set up or dismantle the festival site.

Muddy tyre tracks across grass can also be seen at various points around the park, while large sections of grass near the bandstand had also been destroyed.

Dawn Howe, a member of the Friends of Leazes Park group, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that bosses from Urban Green Newcastle that using the park to stage festivals and other large events was “no good for wildlife, no good for people, and we are just heartbroken”.

The Northern Echo: Damaged grass following the festivalDamaged grass following the festival (Image: LDRS)

She added: “This is a Victorian heritage park, it is not built to hold events. We have begged and pleaded with Urban Green, but it has just fallen on deaf ears. The park is sustaining more and more damage and we are losing more and more wildlife.”

Urban Green was given control of Newcastle’s parks and allotments by the city council in 2019.

The charity has made hosting large events a key part of its income-generating plans, though there have been serious concerns about its financial state recently – with its most recent accounts predicting a £6.7 million shortfall between now and 2029 and Newcastle City Council being asked to stump up extra funding to help balance the books.

The Northern Echo: Damage to the pathsDamage to the paths (Image: LDRS)

Urban Green said that returfing and reseeding of the damaged grass would begin next week and that it expected the area to “bounce back very quickly”.

They added: “Sadly, despite all the safeguards put in place, the entrance gate piers on the Richardson Road entrance to Leazes Park have been damaged by an event vehicle. The event organisers have accepted full responsibility for the damage and will pay for all repairs. We have already been in contact with stonemasons to carry out the works as soon as possible, and we are liaising with the Historic Environment Team at the Newcastle City Council.”

But Dawn, who lives in nearby St Thomas’ Crescent, complained that Leazes Park has seen “no improvements” to justify events being staged there and claimed it was being treated as a  “cash cow”.

She added: “We celebrated the park’s 150th birthday last year. It is one of the only parks that has not been gifted by aristocracy, it was 3,000 working men from the West End who petitioned the council to have some green space for them on their days off. 

“This is known as the people’s park. It abuts onto the West End, which is one of the poorest areas in England, and the park is very well used.

“But we now have five beautiful days, the first time this year that the weather has been nice, and the park cannot be used because it has been devastated.

“It is not just three days of disruption for an event – it is the week beforehand to set it up and then the months and months afterwards before it becomes usable again.”

Urban Green said that it only stages two large-scale events per year in Leazes Park “to ensure there is limited impact to residents, park users, and wildlife in the area”.

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The charity has previously been embroiled in a dispute with the city council over disturbance caused by music festivals at Exhibition Park.

A spokesperson added: “All event organisers are required to carry out full impact and risk assessments, take necessary measures to reduce their impact, and repair any damage caused to the park.

“The diverse range of events held in Newcastle’s parks, which include many small-scale, community-led events, are a fantastic way for people to engage with their local green space. The vast majority of feedback is hugely positive, and the events programme across the parks opens up the city’s green spaces for everyone.”

The LDRS has contacted the festival’s organisers for a comment.