Greenwich Council reply to failing to invest in parks – good enough?
A Greenwich Council meeting in February this year revealed that only 0.3% of Section 106 income from developers was allocated to improving parks and open spaces last year.
At last weeks April council meeting a question was asked on that total. Greenwich Council’s cabinet member for Growth and Strategic Development Sizwe James (Labour – Thamesmead Moorings) answered by stating £890,000 has been spent over the previous three years.
If that was an attempt to reassure the public I’m not sure it’s very successful. Looking over three years does of course give a higher number but it’s still low in percentage terms. Total S106 spending from 2015/16 to 2017/18 was almost £20 million.
The total received was £32 million.
Even allowing for half of S106 income from developers going towards the fit out of Woolwich Crossrail station we can see that sums allocated to parks and open space are low.
Over the past year we also see that whilst parks did badly, so did health, public realm and education. The majority, by quite some margin, went to Greenwich job agency GLLaB:
- Employment (GLLaB) – £770k
- Health – £31k
- Affordable Housing – £175k
- Transport – £546k
- Open space/parks – £10k
- Public Realm – £27k
- Education – zero
The reply also included this:
“The newly formed Capital Strategy Board will be responsible for the monitoring of
Section 106 receipts, and will be undertaking a review of all contributions
held, which will contribute to the effective deployment and allocation of
resources going forward.”
Monitoring receipts and contributions already held will mean little if allocations at the outset of S106 agreements are so heavily geared away from certain supposed priority areas, such as parks, improved streets and better public health.
A recent scrutiny panel recently saw councillors across the political spectrum criticise Greenwich’s opaque use of funds and spending focus. Many other boroughs allocate a higher percentage of developer income towards investing in better parks and improved public space.
Section 106 income is gradually reducing as the Community Infrastructure Levy gradually takes over in some areas, though S106 will still exist in a reduced form. When we include CIL totals the amount given to parks and open spaces appears little better.
And despite future amounts of S106 income reducing, past agreements total more than £170 million which will be received in coming years.
Mention was also made of routine spending on parks. That is barely enough to keep them in reasonable condition. Many are in poor condition hence the need for one-off injections of investment from S106 and CIL income that are not onerous on routine spending.
It’s easy in some parts of the borough to forget how poor other areas are. There’s some great parks yet also some that havn’t seen a penny in years and are not only off-putting but sometimes downright dangerous with broken walls, buildings and paving. It just so happens the worst parks are often in the poorest areas.