Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A week of Parks

Last week was Parks week

On Monday Wendy and I went to the Newsham Park Forum meeting in the Adult Learning Centre on Newsham Drive. On our way we had to stop to phone the fire service because we saw a car on fire, parked on Newsham Drive outside a house. Very scary, but they were there very quickly and everything seemed to be well in hand so we went on to our meeting.

Very depressing news, we learnt that the £50k bid for residents' consultation for plans for the Park in anticipation of a multi-million pound lottery bid had been knocked back. But Paul Scragg, head of the Parks Department did his best to reassure us that the new system for the Heritage Lottery Fund means that we still have a good chance of being considered, but sadly it puts the whole thing back yet another year.

It was a depressing meeting all round really. I learnt for the first time that the Friends of Newsham Park was born out of the Newsham Residents Association, they were encouraged to change from being a TRA to being a Friends Group by LCC to help the Lottery bid.

In many ways this shouldn't matter, but in fact it has mattered a lot. They struggle to have a focus on issues other than the park, that still affect them as local residents, street issues, because there is no forum for them any more to talk about crime, anti-social behaviour, environmental issues, parties and social events for local people, plans for community gardens, whatever it might be. They miss out on having meetings dedicated to their local area where the police, neighbourhood management services and other important partners can address their specific issues.

TRAs are a vital part of neighbourhood management in my personal view.

When we were at the Parks Forum, Friends members tried to bring up a few local street issues but were dissuaded from doing so because it was only a parks meeting.

I think something needs to change here, either we set up a new TRA for the Newsham area or we expand the Parks forum to look at a wider range of issues. Otherwise, this has been expediency on the part of the council to the detriment of local people.

I have not discussed this with anyone and Friends readers of the blog might disagree with me, so I would welcome views.

Last Tuesday was the Parks Scrutiny Panel - you may recall this is the meeting that I very proudly chaired last year and was deeply disappointed when the position was given this year to someone else.

Neither the new chair nor the Chair of the Select committee were at the scrutiny panel (I understand apologies were given after the event, but they were not presented at the meeting itself). Indeed like much of last year only two elected members showed up for this meeting. This depresses me too because I think our parks are vitally important to literally thousands of people across Liverpool and we should be giving them our very best attention.

This is not a party political point, it is a public representative point.

There should be more commitment to the scrutiny of the parks plan. Last year I knew that despite low attendances of councillors (from all parties, like I said this is not a party political point) as Chair I could maintain a grip on the agenda, on the detail, on the issues and ultimately I could write the report myself and be sure that the issues that the different Friends group raised would be incorporated. This year I dont have that certainty.

This is not a pink and fluffy local government matter, this is of fundamental importance to our health and fitness, to people with no gardens of their own - thousands of them across the city, to dog walkers, runners, amateur sports players, people who love trees and shrubs, to fishermen and cyclists and little kids.

Elected representatives have to decide whether they are ready to care about our parks and lakes as much as our residents do, I am still not convinced. Please prove me wrong.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Hello Louise

A little late in the day but I have found your blog about Liverpool parks and enjoyed reading it. I do a park blog and have been in the Party for 48 years now and done my time as a councillor. I am full of admiration for anyone who does it now. I am picking up your piece on parks for my blogsite.

Keep up the good work! You can find my blog at:

Robert Howard