The Parks and Green Space strategy for Bristol has been at least 4 years in development.
As a new councillor I went to all party meetings to discuss the principles on which Bristol’s approach to Green Space could be developed over the next 20 years.
That work led to the agreed Strategy which seeks to ensure that people have access to good quality parks and green spaces of different types, close to where they live. It was adopted by the city council’s Cabinet on Thursday 21 February 2008.
Officers then used mapping data to see how close the different types of green space were to people’s homes so that all of us should have reasonable access to a variety of green space; children and young people’s space, formal green space, informal green space, natural green space and active sports space.
It is sometimes said that Bristol is great on strategies, but poor on implementation.
The challenge implementing this strategy has been funding. The strategy states that in addition to Section 106 money, council revenue and capital and potential matched grant funding, there would be sale of and development on “low amenity value green space”.
Officers used the criteria in the Area Green Space Strategy to draw up a list of 62 such suggested sites and they were published earlier in the summer as the “Area Green Space Plans ideas and options consultation”. http://www/.bristol.gov.uk/agsp In suggesting those sites, officers reflected on whether there was similar alternative green space close by, the amount of green space locally, whether development might allow other green space to be “looked over” to reduce anti-social behaviour and allow childrens play areas to be safely built, etc, etc.
Many thousands of people have responded to the consultation, with emails, letters and petitions, public meetings and site visits. There has been extensive press and internet coverage. The consultation has raised new issues for consideration and indicated how well loved and well used some of those sites are.
The consultation results are now in, the officers are revising their recommendations in the light of that feedback and the Cabinet will need to decide whether to accept, amend or reject the officer recommendations.
The Cabinet must listen and be seen to listen.
We will have the benefit of hearing the views of the all party scrutiny committee who will consider the recommendations at their extra meeting on 15th December before the Cabinet meets to decide on 16th December.
I am well aware that this will be a sensitive and difficult decision. We have had calls to scrap the strategy altogether, or refer all decisions to neighbourhood partnerships. In making my decision I will find it useful to remind myself of the aims outlined and agreed in the January 2008 report…
- an increase of up to 70 new play spaces across the city
- introduction of natural play spaces
- improved facilities for young people
- Parks Keepers in all the main traditional parks across the city as a minimum
- ensuring there is a good quality traditional park within easy reach
- safeguarding key historic estates and parks
- establishing a network of 16 Local Nature Reserves
- making natural green spaces more accessible and welcoming
- improving grounds maintenance
- tackling anti-social behaviour
- improving the quality of sports pitches
- creating dog free areas and tackling dog fouling
- developing and redesigning some backland sites
They were right then and they are still right today. Bristol needs to maintain, invest and develop our parks and green spaces over the next 20 years and this offers a way to do it.