CROYDON COMMENTARY: Is the council’s consultation on green spaces simply an exercise in providing planners with excuses to build on our less-loved parks? KIRSTIE SMITH, for one, is cynical about the exercise, which she says potentially excludes a large number of park-users
Football. Walking the dog. Keep fit. Playing the bongos. Riding the zip wire. Cricket. Rugby. Riding a bike. Going for a stroll. Having a picnic. Kids playing in the play park.
All these activities take place in my local green space. I am sure there are other activities, too, which gives an idea of how versatile, and important, our green spaces are.
Croydon Council is running a consultation on our local green spaces. They want to know which ones are important to us and why. The council says it’s in the early stages of a review, and it has a short survey online where residents are asked to select the local green space they are interested in. You can submit more than one park or green space, but it is one survey per green space, so you could be there for a while if you think more than one is important.
The survey asks you to state why the park or green space is important to you and what you do there. The council says the point of this is “…to determine areas of green space that could be granted a planning designation that would offer some protection to the site – the more evidence we receive from the community the more informed the Local Plan evidence base will be.”
The council says that it wants to protect important green spaces. However, I’m cynical, and the sentence “…currently there are no planning applications for any of the mapped sites” is concerning.
The “currently” could be interpreted as “if you don’t tell us about green spaces that are important, we can add them to our list of sites to build on”.
Given that, when I logged on to the council’s website, directly under the green spaces survey was also a “call for sites (development)”, it seems fair to suspect that, in the minds of council planners and some councillors, the two things do go together.
So who are local green spaces important to? Me, you, the children, the elderly, those whose mobility isn’t quite so good. Being local means that these members of the community can still get out, watch and listen to nature, walk the dog, or maybe just sit in the fresh air.
Local means the community can access it easily, there is no need to get the bus or drive the car to engage with nature in whichever way they choose to.
For the council to understand which green spaces are important (all of them?) and why, along with what matters to its residents and why then surely it should be inclusive and ask everyone.
This consultation is online and I haven’t seen any evidence of it being advertised on leaflets through my door, or a letter with a paper questionnaire and a reply envelope.
Even today, in 2019, there are many people that are not online, for a whole host of reasons. They might be enthusiastic park users, but lack the hardware or the broadband connection to express that enthusiasm in an online survey taking up to 10 minutes.
How can they access this and have their say?
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