Open Spaces Strategy Summary
In January, the council published an Open Spaces Strategy document on the future of parks and open spaces in the city, based on the ‘Big Conversation’ consultation that took place Autumn 2016.
Deputy Council Leader Gill Mitchell said: “Councils up and down the country are facing the challenge of how to fund parks and opens spaces with reduced budgets. We will learn from  other local authorities and build on the excellent work already being done in Brighton & Hove, in particular by volunteers.”
To save you reading all 72 pages, here is a brief summary:
The council plans to “complete a heritage conservation plan for St Nicholas’s Churchyard, Queens Park and Preston Park.” At last! Friends Of Queens Park have been pushing this for years because it is a key step towards our park securing future backing from Heritage Lottery Funding, or similar. This vital report is now in process and a conservation management plan is likely to be delivered this Spring.
Under ‘Key Challenges’, the report states “Queens Park and Valley Gardens are two heritage conservation areas in the city on Historic England’s at-risk register”. Blimey. To clarify, this refers not to the ‘registered park and garden’ but the wider conservation area. Given the current state of the park (‘shocking,’ says one CityParks employee), maybe the park should be on the at-risk list as well?
What about a Queens Park Charitable Foundation? The council is considering a citywide foundation to “build on the culture of giving within the city’s business community,” while another possibility would be a single park option, “a trust…which has the potential to break even financially.” Preston Park (“which already generates income from car parking”) is mentioned as an example. Might this be the future for Queens Park?
DIY: the council wants to “identify and enable members of the public willing to cut their own grass verges.” Rather like Pavilion Gardens, which is largely maintained by volunteer work, they are keen to hand over labour intensive duties wherever possible.
Friends Groups: their importance is clearly increasing. “Most green spaces in the city are managed by CityParks supported by a large number of stakeholders including many volunteers and Friends of Groups.” Is that wishful thinking, or just their way of asking for more practical ‘support’?
Playgrounds across the city are in peril. There was a £2m investment in play equipment in 2009/10, but that’s spent and there’s no more coming. Broken items are not being replaced, and the trend is now towards “more natural play features.” Low maintenance is the goal.
Trees are also in trouble. The preservation of the National Elm Collection is a great city success story, but cuts are likely to mean fewer new trees, and possibly less disease prevention. The ash dieback problem, now hitting the city, adds to the pressure.
Shocking fact: “Between 20-30% of garden staff time is spent picking up the public’s litter during the summer period.” So littering is not just inconsiderate, but it’s costing us money too.
Shocking fact: “Between 2009 and 2020 Brighton & Hove’s parks could lose around one third of its money.”