• Necessity of green spaces – The mother of invention 19 March 2018 | View comments

  • 19th March 2018 | By David Jolley

    I have been able to attend the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) Parks seminar at Mere Golf and Country Club. It proved to be an impressive and informative day, making us aware of a range of facts and statistics and several examples of good practice.

    The day was chaired by Wayne Priestly – principal adviser on parks. He introduced the day with reference to the political and economic situation and let us know that Paul O’Brien (CEO of APSE) is included in the Parks Action Group https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-pledges-500000-for-new-action-group-to-grow-future-of-public-parks

    They welcome suggestions for questions to be asked. They ask for comments on priorities for funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

    First main talk came from Councillor Peter Golds of the Local Government Association. He is a councillor in Bethnal Green and referred to its history and origins in the Old Nichol one of the grimmest areas of Victorian London https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Nichol . It now has become Boundary Estate, one of the first developments of social housing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Estate. A recent survey found that residents’ greatest wish is for a bandstand!

    The message was that cities need parks and green spaces. He told us that there will have been a 75% reduction in spending on parks by 2020 (from 2010 I think). This equates to a reduction by £5.8 billion (not sure over what period – per annum or per decade – whatever – it is a lot!)

    He believes that if parks are left to deteriorate there will be a public outcry. (Seems to me that some parks – eg Stamford Park – have been allowed to deteriorate. People are upset and there is need for action).

    He drew attention to impressive innovations, which demonstrate how improvements can be achieved despite the economic and political gloom:

    Newcastle upon Tyne: www.newcastle.gov.uk/news/future-newcastles-parks-decided

    Knowsley: http://knowsleyparksboard.co.uk/proposals/

    Councillor Golds warned that some major and well-meaning social housing initiatives have gone badly wrong. He cited new towns created after WW 2 – some were badly sited and lacked a balance of amenities: in addition to houses, towns and cities require schools, libraries, museums, open spaces, transport, lively shopping areas, restaurants, police and other ingredients.

    A final throw away was to be flexible and responsive to new ways of living: one specific example of providing for barbecues might be something we could consider www.clinkhostels.com/london/guide/barbeque-parks-london/

    He also mentioned his own experience of work with the Green Candle Dance Company which involves young and old, including people with dementia http://www.greencandledance.com/

    Paul O’Brien, CEO of APSE spoke next and shared the statistics from their annual survey of parks, which was published on the day


    This catalogues the decline in funding and the consequences which had been trailered by Councillor Golds. As a proportion of GDP, spending on Local Government is now lower, at 6%, than it has been in 80 years.

    He referred to The Graph of Doom www.theguardian.com/society/2012/may/15/graph-doom-social-care-services-barnet. This traces the increase of need for care within society with greater number of frail older people, and sets it against falling budgets to provide all services, including parks – parks being vulnerable, as they are not a legal requirement for local authorities.

    Despite this 72% of parks’ services are delivered in-house. He told us that where authorities have outsourced parks, most have taken them back in-house after a short time. 56% of park services are integrated with street services and 91% of authorities now have Friends groups for parks.

    There is greater public satisfaction with parks than with other local authority services.

    Telford and Wrekin are pioneering a £2m venture linking parks with Public Health (I have not found an internet link to this)

    Income generation: highest from sport pitch hire

    Strong case for direct provision: Look before you leap. TINA (There Is No Alternative!)

    Future for success:

    Parks champion on the council

    Parks more flexible

    Parks with community involvement

    Parks using crowd funding

    Parks linked with health initiatives

    Next was Nick Grayson a ‘sustainability manager’ from Birmingham. Nick is a scientist/researcher/guru and with colleagues has helped Birmingham to be Global leading Green city https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/apr/03/birmingham-san-francisco-oslo-global-green-biophilic-cities-club

    He too told us some history – with local authorities being ‘allowed’ to create public parks from the 1840s under Public Health legislation. NB ‘allowed’ rather than required to and this is still the case.

    He then warned us that all our prejudices were about to be challenged and debunked.

    ‘Human beings – only 10% of our cells are human’: That surely has to be nonsense – but apparently there are nine times more bacterial cells within the framework of an individual human being than there are human cells! http://bigthink.com/amped/humans-10-human-and-90-bacterial

    He took us on then to consider how we can lobby successfully for more and better parks and green spaces in cities. One problem is that decisions are made by gut feelings rather than logic thinking. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/management-advice/10874799/Gut-feeling-still-king-in-business-decisions.html

    I don’t think he told us how to get around this.

    He confirmed that wealth is made in cities and went on to introduce the notion of five forms of capital, following ‘Forum for the future 2013. www.forumforthefuture.org/project/five-capitals/overview

    Natural capital, Social Capital, Human Capital, Financial Capital and Manufactured Capital.

    The most essential of these is Natural Capital and we need to work on this with long horizons – 25 years rather than short term projects, which focus on finance.

    He gave us references to books, which will help us understand all this and turn out own city environments into Biophilic Cities:

    His own book (he gave us a printed copy)


    What has nature ever done for us? By Tony Jupiter


    Happy City by Charles Montgomery


    Fascinating – but we have a lot of work to do to understand it and then find colleagues who can help us interpret it.

    This was a day for opening eyes and for putting flesh to fumbled notions of what needs to be done and how it can be approached.


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