Wednesday July 10th, 7.30pm
Wood Green Social Club
3 Stuart Crescent, Wood Green, London N22 5NJ
[5 mins walk from Wood Green tube]
Community Empowerment in Parks & Open Green Spaces
(in Haringey, North East London and beyond...)
What can we learn from our urban green spaces regarding...
- some of the history of the establishment and development of public parks and green spaces
- their potential as sites for empowering and creative community activities
- community involvement in management (esp. with the rise of Friends Groups over the last 20yrs)
- some of the new (old?) ideas on environmental sustainability and potential for food growing
- and how parks could be better run in the future by those who work in them and use them.
The history of public parks and green spaces can be traced back to ancient cultures; the city of Athens, for example, created open spaces for the health and recreation of its citizens. In the 19th Century, Britain pioneered provision of public parks that were the envy of the world.
With the migration of people from rural communities to the rapidly growing and often overcrowded towns and cities, and following the Industrial Revolution, parks and public spaces were regarded as essential to the health, recreation and improved lifestyles of working people and their families. For generations urban parks have been valued for the economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits they bring to communities.
Almost every town and city has a park, or network of public green spaces, and these account for around 20% of the developed land area in the UK. They are also a significant feature of our urban heritage and, where the standards of management are high, are regarded as an essential component of successful cities around the world. Parks are often the most highly regarded services provided by a local authority. It is estimated that 2.5 billion visits to public parks are made each year by over half of the UK population.
Despite their popularity, public parks and green spaces in this country have witnessed a period of decline and failed to play their proper role in contributing to the quality of the urban infrastructure and the public realm. The "Public Park Assessment" survey published in 2001 by the former Urban Parks Forum (now Green Space) reported that well over one third of all publicly managed parks were in a serious state of decline. Savings from Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) and Best Value management regimes have not, to any great extent, been re-invested in parks. The contracting-out of grounds maintenance has led to the widespread withdrawal of site-based staff, to the great concern of local people, as well as to the removal of apprentice training schemes which are important for developing well-trained and experienced park managers. There is now a perception that certain parks should be avoided due to increasing levels of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and that institutional neglect often contributes to these problems.
Public parks are an essential element of local communities. They encourage strong community identities through social interaction & have the ability to foster public spiritedness. They are one of the few public services that cut across social, financial, cultural & ethnic barriers. They epitomise the concept of social inclusion.
CIWEM urges "joined up thinking" and the collaboration of all those who are responsible for, and care for, the rich resource which is our public parks and green spaces.
- The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, 2008
A Radical History of Hackney Parks:
Booklet produced for this meeting, now available online in a slightly expanded form: