Memorandum by Stockport Metropolitan Borough
Council Community Services Division (TCP 34)
From the outset this memorandum will assume
that the inquiry includes within its remit greenspace in general,
and that in addition to town and country parks, areas such as
river valleys, disused railway lines, closed churchyards, allotments,
local nature reserves and green corridors will be incorporated
into an integrated approach to greenspace policy.
The arrangements to raise the profile of greenspace
on the political agenda have been articulated clearly in many
important publications, in particular: "Parklife, Urban Parks
and Social Renewal" (Comedia/Demos); "People, Parks
and Cities" (Department of Environment); "Greening the
city" (Department of Environment) etc. The views expounded
in these publications are just as relevant today as they were
in 1995. Many Local Authorities and voluntary organisations have
clearly risen to the challenge as set out in the documents and
a higher quality of management aspiration and practice has resulted.
There has, however, been seemingly little progress or change from
central government perspective. The reports call clearly and convincingly
for an end to the "political invisibility" of greenspace,
to the real importance of local greenspace to its people and communities
compared with other forms of provision, and the need to put greenspace
at the heart of planning and regeneration policy-not for it to
be an after thought. The call for a government unit to disseminate
good practice, to co-ordinate policy and funding and provide central
services (similar to those for sport, heritage or arts) has been
largely ignored, leaving greenspace renewal and funding a hit
or miss affair.
Clearly there is an expectation that this inquiry
will result in the development of an intelligent holistic approach
by central government to inform and support those dealing with
the complex and crucial social issues surrounding greenspace management.
If so, this will be the first government, probably since the Victorian
era, with the wit and wisdom to recognise the critical role of
greenspace in society. Despite the mounting waves of research
evidence clearly signalling this crucial role, the "blindspot"
at government level is then propagated to local and regional level.
The report "Urban Renaissance" of the Urban Task Force
does not clearly identify the importance of greenspace, and has
seemingly ignored this major cultural shift in urban society.
The National Lottery funding programmes have made provision for
greenspace development funding, but if this is not linked to central
strategy in relation to planning policy, regeneration, neighbourhood
renewal, crime and disorder, social exclusion, etc., long-term
social benefit may not be achieved.
Greenspace at its best should be at the heart
of the community and its leisure provision. However, many such
spaces are rooted in provision for former generations and are
often irrelevant or only partly providing for today's needs. Many
are "green deserts" providing for (largely male) sports
for a few hours per week, others are in a spiral of decline, un-staffed
and neglected.However, where good quality public parks are managed
well they can be at the wellspring of community spirit.
Accessibility to all ages, genders,
races, religions, etc.
Provide space for vigorous and noisy
activityacts as a social safety valve.
Ability to absorb crowds especially
large groups of young people away from streets/shopping centres,
Events, large and small throughout
Play and family activity in greenspace
contributing to building strong families.
A huge range of educational opportunities
can be met.
Promotes ethnic and social harmony.
Children's play is essential to the
human development processchildren should be encouraged
to express themselves through play.
Facilities for sport, recreation
Health promotion and healthy living
Community arts, sculpture parks,
Relaxation, contemplation and passive
recreation is essential to stress management in today's busy worldrecent
evidence has brought to light the extraordinary role that good
quality greenspace plays in relieving stress and promoting physical
and mental health not only of individuals but the well being of
the communityquality greenspace is often absent from problem
Greenspace issues can unite the whole
community and can be the focus of community development and local
regeneration fostering a sense of community pride.
Quality greenspace contributes greatly
to the value of a neighbourhood and positively affects property
Attractive areas bring inward investment
and business retention.
Greenspace has a central role in
opportunities for economic regeneration.
Can provide a wide range of employment
opportunities as part of regeneration programme.
Methods exist to calculate the true
value of environmental capital of greenspace.
The provision of meaningful leisure
activities in greenspace can reduce the high cost of vandalism
and criminal activity.
Well managed greenspace can contribute
to the tourism value of an area.
Greenspace as a training resource
can positively contribute to the skill levels of communities.
Urban and public greenspace provides
a sanctuary for wildlife and nature which are under pressure from
Can provide good practice examples
for local landowners.
Small changes in environmental practice
can easily provide a much greater range of species rich habitats.
Trees and woodland can moderate effects
of weather, provide great aesthetic and visual effects, provide
havens for wildlife as well as absorb pollution and free radicals
from the surrounding atmosphere and contribute significantly to
the reduction in noise levels.
Public greenspace is one of the few
areas where biodiversity action planning is capable of being put
Whilst many authorities have good quality major
parks, the majority of public open space is in decline. The effect
of CCT since 1988 has mainly been to provide substantial savings
which have been used centrally rather than reinvested into greenspace.
The lack of co-ordinated funding policies has left the relevant
departments chasing funding from a range of sourcesSRB,
City Challenge, ESF, Lottery, Landfill tax, Countryside Agency
The following problems apply to most public
infrastructure in declinepaths,
pavilions, drains, etc., as a result of no investment for many
perceived safety problemsno
lighting, unstaffed, poor sight lines, etc;
building vandalised, graffiti, haunts
for local youths;
facilities not relevant to today's
needs, geared around horticultural specifications;
young peoples provision practically
dog fouling over large areas makes
many parks unusable for most other purposes;
grounds maintenance staff have often
become de-skilled and demotivated with mainly basic mechanised
operations taking place.
OF DETR AND
A centrally directed and co-ordinated
approach to greenspace development and management is essential.
There are many models to choose from, Sports Council, Arts Council,
Countryside Agency, etc; which could result in a new agency or
a sub-section of an existing agency. It is vital that the importance
of greenspace to society is recognised and championed by government.
Any new agency should involve all recognised and relevant organisations
in the process.
At present sources of funding are
disparate; grounds maintenance funding is available but inadequate,
development funding is essentially non-existent.
There will need to be an acceptance
of the principle that all public open space sites cannot provide
top quality leisure facilities. Just as there is a need to search
for new sources of funding, there is a need to look at new ways
of managing greenspace including partnerships, devolved ownership,
community ownership, charitable trust status, low cost maintenance
and disposal for development. All options should be explored.
In the same way indoor leisure has
responded to the public's changes in leisure pursuits, funding
should be made available to enable greenspace facilities to respond
at the same rate.
A policy of deciding strategically
which land could be developed to raise funds for higher quality
park provision must be recognised and pursued. These may require
hard decisions which may not find favour locally.
Many sites could become wildlife
areas/nature reserves as low-cost public open space.
Anti-social behaviour: one of the major
issues facing greenspace management is the wide range of anti-social
behaviour problems. Experience proves that only a holistic approach
can really tackle problems effectively. These include:
Safety and security:
CCTV cameras, night security patrols,
lighting in parks, police initiatives, etc.
Site presence on high profile sites
(park-keepers, gardeners, etc). There is a new breed of park-keeper
with a role in community involvement and liaison, events, etc.,
in addition to safety and hygiene of the park.
Working with schools, environmental
awareness, citizenship, training, planting schemes, "ownership"
Community involvement, "friends
of" schemes, parkwatch, etc.
Modern apprentice schemes.
New designs and maintained greenspace
is more likely to be respected.
Many authorities have established ranger services
to undertake the wide range of duties required to manage greenspace
effectively. These include dealing with anti-social behaviour,
patrolling and inspection, events, community involvement, health
promotion, fund raising, etc. Along with site based staff such
as park-keepers, they are now seen as essential to good land management
Local agenda 21 and Biodiversity
Greenspace provides an easily accessible route
to involve communities, schools and organisations into the Local
Agenda 21 process. The role of urban greenspace in providing sanctuary
for wildlife under pressure from agri-commerce should not be under-estimated,
but this would involve habitat creation as part of a habitat development
programmeand funding should be made available for this
as a matter of urgency. These, and further issues are raised in
Stockports Development plan "Valuing Greenspace".
Greenspace should be central to government
policy on urban and rural regeneration, environmental planning
policy including LA21, social policies such as health promotion,
sports promotion, social exclusion, etc. If a strong lead is given,
local authorities and other organisations will soon realise its
The role that parks and greenspaces
play in our individual lives, our communities and in our surrounding
environment cannot be understated .
Civilisations are judged not only
on the quality of their buildings and social institutions but
on how they make use of public open space. How will our society
be judged when viewing the range of derelict, slum parks on may
housing estates throughout Britain?
The Prime Minister in the booklet "Leading
the wayA new vision for local government", champions
a local government which would include:
Developing a vision for the locality
through community support in a range of areas including protecting
our environment, developing centres of excellence for the arts
and regeneration and revitalising town centres.
Guarantee quality services for all
through bringing back pride to towns and cities by by ensuring
that the streets are clean, the grass is cut and parks are maintained.
We look forward to the results of the inquiry
with great interest.