Last week Greenwich Council passed a motion on obesity levels in the borough with some admirable aims. The area sits above the London and UK average for overweight people and near the bottom for life expectancy.
The motion stated “We are one of the most proactive councils in London in terms of embracing initiatives in order to improve the lives of our residents.”
At the very same meeting a question from Eltham South Conservative Councillor Nigel Fletcher on how much developer income derived from Section 106 had been spent on improving parks over the past year revealed it to be just 0.3%.
Of course, Conservative central government have sharply cut back on funding for local authorities so Greenwich are in a tough spot. But are they using income they do have wisely?
The reply showed that despite combined Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments from developers likely topping £90 million last year (an estimated total as the authority has yet to release full Section 106 income last year as now obliged by law – in 2015/16 they received £91 million in S106 payments) just £256k has been spent on parks over the past year, and £177k of that was for a masterplan:
The images in this article are taken around Abbey Wood, which recently saw a development proposed that will pay £272,000 to GLLaB and not a penny for parks such as those pictured. This happens again and again. Is a better balance possible?
It once again highlights a vast disparity in how income is spent and how spending contradicts the authority’s stated goals. It’s all well and good having targets for public health in council reports but it counts for little when not spending S106 and CIL on encouraging healthy living.
Greenwich are apparently pursuing these areas:
Some of these areas are covered by other public health schemes yet better public space and parks must surely be part of any holistic strategy.
Banning fizzy drinks in schools is one part of a process – but if a local park is unwelcoming it wont be well used after school.
It’s not just obesity that better parks could alleviate – but youth problems too. If children have well maintained, welcoming, safe parks then violence would be discouraged.
And then there’s mental health. Good quality parks and open spaces work wonders in that area.
They could also be the hub of communities – and where good ones exist they very often are. But too many rundown parks are not being supported right now.
The old spending priorities
Yes, GLLaB does good stuff and employment and training is important but not to the complete detriment of almost everything else. A far better balance is needed in how vast amounts of income from new build housing and shops is being spent.
In recent weeks people have been asking questions on how and why S106 and CIL is spent the way it is. There’s been some answers but none have answered the question.
Recently we were told it wasn’t possible to spend income in a wider area on improving parks or other areas. It had to be in the immediate vicinity. Not accurate. It was then shown how other boroughs do it, such as in Southwark:
Since then silence.
This is the same basic issue as Ikea’s poor access and seen in many other areas. A continual pattern is seen of ignoring public spaces again and again and wondering why people are unhealthy, why people drive and why public perception of some areas is poor.