We value our parks, but are they forever?

Time and again in consultations and interviews in Sneinton the subject of parks and open space comes up. Usually, people tell us that there is not enough open space around Sneinton, but what we have (for example, King Edward's Park, the Windmill Park, Trickett's Park and Colwick Woods) is greatly appreciated. In our visions of the future, trees, gardens, grass, public space and and green space are often desired.

Above: Word cloud of resident's visions, collected during the Sneinton Vision project.

If you take a look at the Sneinton Neighbourhood Plan area, there is actually a fair amount of green space around the neighbourhood, but it tends to be difficult to access and lumped together at the edges of Sneinton, rather than evenly distributed throughout. The Mounts, located just off Sneinton Dale, are relatively unknown and have in the last few years been largely fenced off. Colwick Woods, just yards from the top of Sneinton Boulevard, and the end of Colwick Road, are only accessible from a couple of relatively hidden points. The Friends of Colwick Woods (a Forum member organisation) have been working hard to try to get the access to the woods improved.

Above: Sneinton Neighbourhood Plan area: Surprisingly green

As 'austerity' cuts bite ever deeper, many people are unaware that parks have no protected status, and councils can dispose of 'informal recreation space' without having a duty to consult.

"Unlike education or libraries, parks are a discretionary service which councils have no statutory duty to provide... All local authorities have to make tough decisions over funding and the temptation for cash-strapped councils to auction off assets is significant; not only to generate immediate income, but also remove a longer term maintenance liability."(1)

But there are alternatives. Some councils are recognising the value of parks and protecting them as "Fields in Trust", giving them protected status:

"Edinburgh Council has estimated that for every £1 spent on green infrastructure, around £12 of social, economic and environmental benefits are delivered through the community use of parks and green spaces. Earlier this year Glasgow Council dedicated 27 sites across the city with Fields in Trust – securing forever these playgrounds and parks as recreational space. The council’s open spaces strategy recognises the health, wellbeing and play benefits green space provides and have committed to its upkeep forever." (1)

In Halifax, Yorkshire, a "Healthy Living Park" initiative has been launched, to recognise the role that parks play in keeping us healthy, and to encourage positive use. Would this work in Sneinton? And could we encourage our Council to protect our parks with "Deeds of Dedication... a legally binding document which means each Field is protected for future generations to enjoy." (2)?

(1) New Start: What is the value of a park? http://newstartmag.co.uk/articles/what-is-the-value-of-a-park/
(2) Fields in Trust: http://www.fieldsintrust.org