Gay Men who use Gosforth Park a popular open space in Newcastle for cruising, have been warned to stay away next week.
European Interior Ministers (Home Office Ministers) are due in the area to join the British Home Secretary, Charles Clarke (pictured) in debating issues such as terrorism and asylum.
The entire area surrounding the Marriot Hotel and Newcastle Racecourse (including the park) will be out of bounds for everyone due to security concerns.
Mesmac, a local gay community group (funded in part by the regional health authority) received advice from local officials warning gay men to stay away from the area next week.
The memo which was later leaked to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle states: “Northumbria Police have asked that the following information be brought to the attention of people who might use the Gosforth Park area for cruising or socialising.
If this is likely to affect you or people you know, please read the message below and pass the information to others who are likely to be affected. If it does not affect you, please delete this message and accept our apologies for disturbing you.
This will include both the hotel and the racecourse and will also take in the parkland and secluded areas in the vicinity. While these are not well-used areas for cruising, we are aware that some people do use them for this purpose.”
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The advice has provoked controversy as local politicians asked why the local council (who passed on the information to Mesmac) felt the need to spend public money warning the gay community of the event.
Mesmac is part of the council’s social services directorate, funded by health authorities across the North East, and a city council spokesman said: “We were asked by Mesmac to publicise this to staff.
“However, in hindsight we now believe it was inappropriate to send the information out in this way. We have reviewed our system so this will not happen again in the future.”
The council says the staff information team consists of two people who spend about two hours a week putting out news in addition to their work duties, and it has no funding.
Councillor John Shipley (Liberal Democrats) said, “This is not a matter for the council, and for council officers to be sending out letters of this kind is an inappropriate use of time and resources.”
Brian Moore, chairman of Newcastle Conservatives, told the Evening Chronicle, “It’s up to the council to provide services for city taxpayers, not provide information about areas where gay people cruise and meet others for casual sex.”