Saturday, June 23, 2007

Final Parks Scrutiny Panel meeting in Croxteth Hall

What a lovely setting for our final scrutiny panel meeting.

Croxteth Hall and Park, if you have never been, is a wonderful park with a grand hall. There are extensive grounds, a walled garden, a farm, 32 ponds, glasshouses housing some of the historical botanic collection and much more. Well worth a visit, I plan to return over the summer and spend at least half a day there, having a proper look round.

We had an interesting discussion with John Stonard from CABE Space who have some thoughtful views about how the built environment and green spaces and parks should interact. They are a national organisation who have the potential to very positively influence urban renewal.

The Parks and Lakes strategy document that we have been scrutinising since February has a lot to commend it and clearly fits in with CABE's views, which I was keen to ensure.

I wrote the draft final report and presented it to the committee on Wednesday night. Having agreed a few additions with attending members, I will be presenting the final report to the select committee next week. We have made over 20 recommendations covering a variety of important subjects, I cannot list them all here but have a look on the council website next week and you should hopefully find the full detailed report there.

But the main points were around tackling anti-social behaviour in parks (dogs, bikes, gangs), extending healthy activity in parks (sports equipment, tracks, walks etc) involving children more in the lives of parks with better and bigger playgrounds and an extension of the Junior Park Rangers scheme, tackling graffiti in parks, tree planting, bringing new blood into the parks staffing teams with apprentices and the long-term unemployed learning horticultural skills ready to take over when the experts inevitably retire, tackling derelict buildings close to parks, and lots more beside.

I closed the meeting by thanking the council staff who have supported the panel, they have done a really good job, not only helping us to find the right experts to present evidence to us, but hosting all of our meetings in parks across the city. I doubt they have had this much attention paid to them by existing members before and they really rose to the occasion.

This has been one of the most enjoyable and informative things that has happened to me since becoming a councillor, chairing this important scrutiny panel, I have felt my grandfather, great grandfather and both great uncles at my shoulder much of the time, they were all parks men and would have been animated and interested at every session I am sure.

Finally I am going to thank Councillor Josie Mullen at the select committee next week for having asked me to chair, a big surprise given it was my first year on the council and she was the LibDem chair of the Select committee. A truly non-partisan gesture.

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