Make your voice heard on future of our local parks
Published on: 28 Nov 2017
by Keri Beckingham
TWO local councillors and a Friends group have reacted after Bristol City Council’s latest plans for parks and green spaces were in the spotlight at a full council meeting.
Following the news that the budget for parks would be cut in February next year, the council announced it was launching a consultation to review potential cost-saving measures such as reducing park maintenance, grass cutting, planting as well as toilet opening hours.
The packed meeting on November 14 included public statements and debates on the Bristol Parks Forum petition. In addition, a vote to reduce the proposed £2.8million cuts did not pass and so a motion for a rethink has now been put forward.
Despite Deputy Mayor for Communities Asher Craig stating that the council would not sell off any parks or green spaces and it was committed to keeping them free and available to all city residents, there are many concerns among community groups in regard to the impact that the cuts will have on their beloved green spaces.
Speaking about what the cuts could mean for parks in our area, Clare Campion-Smith, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Westbury & Henleaze, said: “Canford Park is on the list as one of the parks that will be a money generator, as because of its size and position it is a good place for events to be held. Similarly, the Downs will be asked to take on more events in the future too.
“However, the core purpose of parks (which is open space for enjoyment and recreation) must remain and the balance between events and good quality green environments must be carefully and continually reviewed.
“I think local community groups will step up and become more involved in running parks but they need basic infrastructure to be dealt with by the council.”
Geoff Gollop, Conservative Councillor for Westbury & Henleaze said: “Whilst I welcome the recognition that the council has to be commercial in the way it operates, I am concerned that the Downs will be seen as the easiest option to exploit for income. The Downs has been starved of financial resources for years, and I fear it will now be expected to generate income for the rest of the parks estate across Bristol, when in reality it should be raising funds to keep the public toilets open and to improving the footpaths and jogging tracks around the Downs.
“Similarly, Canford Park is a major community asset used by residents from all over North Bristol. The grass needs cutting, and the play equipment needs maintaining, as well as proper provision of toilet refreshment and changing facilities. The community cannot suddenly be made responsible for fundraising and income generation. I believe it could take five years to progress to a sound financial position for the park, but much longer if income raised is to be “taken” for other parks.”
Graham Donald, secretary of Friends of Canford Park, said: “We’re delighted that making Bristol parks “cost neutral” has been abandoned. But the proposals still contain severe cuts and ambitious plans to increase income, with Canford being one of the parks from which the city council hope to raise more money.
“The city council have not spelled out the implications for individual parks, and we’d welcome dialogue with them on Canford and how it is likely to be affected. It’s encouraging that they’re working on a volunteering strategy; this has great potential in these difficult times. We’re keen to engage residents of all ages in putting together a response to the council proposals and are planning a public meeting. Please email us if you’d like to be involved at firstname.lastname@example.org”
Friends of Badock’s Wood have welcomed the partial reprieve for council funding for parks. Explaining their concerns regarding the parks consultation and how Badock’s Wood could be affected, Frances Robertson, secretary, said: “Free access to well cared for public open spaces, such as Badock’s Wood, is vital to the health and well-being of local residents as well as the wildlife of the area.
“Many local residents will remember that Badock’s Wood had become somewhat neglected in the past and thanks to local residents‘ efforts, working closely with the Parks Department and other local groups, the wood today is a pleasant, safe environment to walk, rest, and enjoy the wildlife that thrives there.
“Friends of Badock’s Wood volunteers can only do so much themselves, such as some enhancement to the wood by additional meadow work, pond maintenance and litter picking, but the wood needs proper, professional management using heavy machinery. Whilst we can do a lot to enhance Badock’s Wood, we cannot manage it.
“We hope very much that the discussions between the Friends groups (via Bristol Parks Forum) and Bristol City Council will see a solution that will continue to maintain Badock’s Wood and other parks and open spaces with no deterioration from the position we have today.”
The parks and green spaces consultation is open until January 29. Residents wishing to comment can complete the survey by visiting https://bristol.citizenspace.com/neighbourhoods/parks-and-green-spaces/