Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guess who is the Chair of the new Parks Strategy Scrutiny Panel for Liverpool City Council?

Yup! Yours truly

I hope Grandad Arthur, Uncle Alleyne and Great Grandad Sid are looking down in pride. They were all Parks, Gardens and Cemetries men for the Corporation - in Coventry. I'm sure my passion for parks has been inherited from them.

We had our inaugural meeting on Monday and it was really good. I had met with the Head of the Parks Service, Paul Scragg, last Friday in his office at Calderstones Park and we had agreed a work programme. I was keen to involve all the areas within the strategy documents for our city's parks and lakes for the next ten years, but also those extra topics that members had shown an interest in at a recent Green, Heritage and the Environment Select Committee.

The panel agreed that we would concentrate on a variety of areas - young people and parks, security and parks, major projects in parks (like the big Heritage Lottery Fund bids for Sefton Park, Princes Park and Newsham Park), events in parks, management of parks, green flag status, using parks, distance from parks, inclusivity in parks and plans for our big lakes etc. We are going to have a special fact-finding session on the famed Botanic collection too.

We also agreed to hold our meetings in parks - within park buildings - so that we can have a proper look at some of the bigger parks while we go through the work programme. I am particularly keen on this, although we will have to make sure we have the disabled access right. I think probably we might get more public visitors to these meetings than we did to those on the 800th birthday celebrations, people are very passionate about their parks. I didnt think it right to discuss them from a tower block in town when we could be out there getting the full picture first hand.

Nick Small said he thought it was going to be exciting and that you couldn't say that about much in local government. Then things got even better briefly when it was enthusiastically suggested that we might have a trip to Central Park in New York to see the park influenced by the one in Birkenhead, but then we came back down with a bang when it was pointed out that it would be cheaper and easier to visit the original....

I do hope Nick's right, that it is exciting and that we learn a lot and make some valuable contributions to the strategy, I think it will be. I believe the Parks staff too are excited, if not a tad bit tentative at this early stage, about having such strong interest shown in their work and their plans, they have felt a bit ignored by politicians over the years I sense (of any party I suspect).

I fully intended to say to the panel members how honoured I felt at being offered this wonderful opportunity to chair a panel on something so close to my heart, especially as there is a 6-2 split on the committee, with Nick and I in the political minority. I am afraid I genuinely forgot to say it in all the excitement, perhaps the chance will come at a later date.

Great stuff - and much nicer than dog muck and fly-tipping (although I can foresee a session on dog muck and fly-tipping in parks, sure to be)

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