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Green response to the parks and green spaces consultation

The Green Party in Bristol has made the following submission on the parks consultation.

You can participate here (but please note the deadline is 29th January):


Parks consultation

Benefits of urban parks

Bristol’s parks and green spaces play a key role in any city, but particularly within Bristol. They act as a place to play, a place to rest, and a place to meet. They allow those on low incomes access to green space which otherwise they may not get. They cool the city when it is hot, they absorb water when there is heavy rain. They help mitigate and adapt to climate change. They help combat air pollution. They help increase biodiversity. They can have a role in allowing people in the city to get away from the noise and stress of the city which is vital for health and wellbeing. We regard it as a vital part of what makes Bristol special that we maintain a range of high quality green space in all parts of the city.

Additional Benefits of allotments

We also believe that our network of allotments plays an important role in allowing people to grow their own food at a location close to their home (which is therefore highly sustainable), be it done individually or communally.

Keep them free!

The concept that our parks should be free to use must be enshrined as a fundamental and inviolable principle. We believe that charges for allotments should be kept to a minimum, and rises in charges should be kept to levels of inflation.

Making money from park cafes and concessions

We support measures to raise income from parks cafes by improving the offer. We do not believe this should mean significant price rises, but more an extension of the range of items offered. We also support the proportionate increase in numbers of concessions, but there must be a ‘healthy food’ strategy as part of this, in line with council policies.

We note the list of parks which currently have cafes. We assume there will be an analysis of the possibility of putting in cafes to other parks eg Greville Smyth.

In terms of who runs the cafes, we believe that there needs to be a strategy to encourage in house or local, independent concessions eg by letting individual sites not a chain of sites and monitoring social value around local supply chains. We DO NOT believe local concessions should be replaced by an in-house offer, without a very good justification for doing so – the council should be aiming to support local small business, rather than penalise it.

Parking charges

We support the introduction of parking charges in parks, with the proviso that those with  mobility issues eg blue badge holders are exempt.

Advertising in parks

We oppose the introduction of advertising in parks. We believe that part of the role of a public park is to get away from the hurly-burly of city living and endless consumption, and this will negate this important benefit.

Advertising on roundabouts

We would discourage introducing billboard advertisements on new sites across the city - they encourage the draining of wealth and spending from the local economy to global corporations and the escalation of consumption that impoverishes communities.

Introduce fees for business operating from a park or green space eg dog walkers, fitness trainers and for balloons

We can envisage considerable difficulties in enforcing this, and, given the relatively small amounts of money expected to be raised wonder if the effort will be worthwhile. However, assuming there is a sufficient cost-justification, a licensing scheme should be considered as one option for charging commercial operators using our parks - with an obligation to demonstrate the license to operate when advertising their services in each location. (eg including a noticeboard listing the licensed and insured businesses approved for each park).

Introduce fee-paying activities into parks

We largely support this approach, as long as sufficient safeguards are put in place not to destroy the ambience of a park. A defined and limited area in each open space should be allocated so that the majority of space is not excluded from free access.

Increased income from larger fee-laying events

We have concerns that introducing ever higher fees for large events could result in the loss of some events (such as Vegfest) or the dominance of large scale corporate operators. Any increase in numbers of large scale events needs to take into account the impact on local residents. To go from one to two large scale events per year may be acceptable. To go from one to ten certainly is not.

We have further concerns that proposals to charge more for non-commercial events will impact on small scale community events. Community groups and volunteer organisations need to be given sufficient time and support to plan for their events, and need a predictable environment in which to do so. Failure to do so can result in them being forced to cancel events.

Maintenance budget

We are seriously concerned about the impact of the major cuts to the parks maintenance budgets. Significant amounts have been cut from these budgets, and this will inevitably damage the appearance of local parks and reduce their quality. We are concerned at the seeming lack of detail over how these are being implemented. We are also concerned that they may take a park or green space below a minimum acceptable standard.

Use of volunteers/Friends groups

We support the existence of Friends groups for parks. Local people with knowledge of their local park can play a key role in its development. However, volunteers have to be supported to be effective. They need support in all aspects of volunteering, and this may become an overhead in its own right. If we expect Friends groups or volunteers to take on more, the council needs to invest in them – this should include how we communicate with them, insurance, plant and equipment . It also needs to provide a service guarantee for works paid for by groups to ensure these are implemented without excess delays.

CIL and parks

We believe that there are opportunities for the council, working in partnership with local groups, to seek further funding to go with CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) applications. The department should be supporting this.

Wildlife areas

We would support the introduction or increase in well-created wildlife areas should there be a local will to do so.

Ringfencing of income raised by parks for parks

The raising of income for Bristol’s parks is a significant unknown, which may go badly, and conversely may go very well. Were it to be the latter, we believe that a significant proportion of income raised should be ring-fenced to be retained by parks. The idea that parks be a cash-cow for other services is quite wrong.

Cemetaries and crematoriums

It is difficult to comment on the proposals to raise money from the cemetaries and crematoriums service, without having a good understanding of the context of the proposals eg what is the cost and change in cost for a family who have to bury a loved one.

However, in general terms, we make the following comments:

  1. We believe there should adequate funding for those on low incomes to be able to bury or cremate lost loved ones without getting into debt. That’s why we support the #BurytheDebt http://fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk/content/chancellor-told-bury-debt-grieving-families campaign.
  2. We therefore would oppose increases in costs which adversely affect those on low incomes.
  3. We would like to see a review of how the service is run in order to ensure that we do what we can to support a good experience for families dealing with a death
  4. We should look at the councils provision for more sustainable methods of disposal, e.g. natural burials
  5. We do accept that the council should also be able to offer and raise income from 'extras' that are wanted by some users of the service to complete their ceremony. This needs to be a sensitive and viable addition to the basic service.

Creation of a trust

We believe there needs to be significant further discussion before any trust be created for local parks. This would include, but not be limited to a council loss of control, its income raising potential, and the need a big dowry (depending on which parks are included).

Parks forum submission

We note and are generally supportive of the submission made by the parks forum.

 

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