ENJOY THE PARKS WHILE THEY STILL EXIST
At the end of last year the council of Brighton and Hove ran a consultation process called "Big Parks and Open Spaces", which asked for comments on priorities around the facilities and maintenance of its 147 parks and 53 playgrounds.
This turned out to be information-gathering to prepare the city for large cuts in spending on running the parks, by cutting those facilities which are less popular to the majority. A bit like asking a condemned man how he would like to be executed. The outcome is the same, but the consultation exonerates the decision. Incidentally, money spent on parks and open spaces is one of the council's smallest budgets (approximately £14 per person a year).
The corollary of these cuts is that playgrounds will cease to be maintained, (perhaps replaced with trees, and boulders for climbing), and that the dependence of the council on Friends groups and volunteers will increase. However, that dependence is reciprocal - the groups like the Friends of Three Cornered Copse exist to enhance the service that City Parks provide. If the service is cut, there is nothing to enhance, and the work that the Friends can do is limited.
Groups like Friends of The Earth have argued that the parks budget should be ring-fenced to avoid the cuts, using the income the council receive for events and rentals, to create a self-sufficient economy of re-investment. It's also argued that the benefit to the community of well-maintained park spaces has not been measured. The payback of our green space infrastructure to health and well-being is surely worth having. The city's health budget has had to be increased this year. Decisions are already being taken, such as the plan to outsource the management of the town's tennis courts; a petition to object is available in change.org.
In some contrast to this, in January, we saw pictures of council officials celebrating the award of a lottery grant of f3.8 million to renovate Stanmer Park. This sum, an amazing achievement, was matched by funds raised by the council from donors and other groups. A curious park strategy, in which Stanmer receives investment, and the rest are disinvested. The pittance it takes to perpetuate the maintenance of our green spaces is surely not worth cutting. Once gone, they will never return.
As the days begin to grow perceptibly lighter, it's worth getting out and about in our parks, like Three Cornered Copse, and enjoying them while they still exist.