Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

New research looks at the lofty aspirations versus the reality of how local authorities care for green spaces

Is an Astro-Turf football pitch a green space? A roof garden?

In some local authorities they are counted even if users must book and/or pay to use them. Why? So that LAs can meet unrealistic targets they have set themselves to increase urban green space on their patch.

Many people don't realise that parks and green spaces do not receive statutory funding despite the wealth of evidence that they are good for people's physical and mental health. As a result, when spending cuts need to be made or money raised, parks and green spaces are targeted for selling off, privatising or neglecting. 

People like parks, they like trees and planting, so often LAs create policy aspirations that are always going to fail.

Take tree planting. Lots of people like to show up to plant trees, it makes a great photo op for local councillors and looks good when asked about how a LA is tackling climate change and air quality. The brutal truth is that 50% will fail in their first year because they are in the wrong place, planted at the wrong time (tree planting is best done in winter when they are dormant but who wants to dig holes in the freezing cold?), they are placed in compacted soil or the same people that turned out to plant them don't then come back to water them through our increasingly hot summers.

An LA just up the road made a huge deal about about creating a new "urban forest' with the charity Trees for Cities on Hackney Marshes with lots of photos and fanfare but were less keen to answer the questions about how most of the saplings had died. It suddenly became Trees for Cities problem. 

Meanwhile, mature trees are felled to make way for new developments, sometimes in blatant defiance of tree protection orders but sometimes with the council's blessing. We'll just plant more they say but, as the great botanist and tree expert Oliver Rackham observed, "Tree-planting is not synonymous with conservation; it is an admission that conservation has failed"

Is it entirely the fault of local authorities? No, of course not. Policy makers at national level put pressure on councils to set these targets while not making parks funding statutory and starving them of funds.

The truth is that environmental charities and aspirations can't fill the gap left by lack of money. Parks must be funded to reflect the essential benefit they provide to our mental and physical well-being. 

Read the article about the new research here

Tags for Forum Posts: my two euros, nature notes, parks

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