For quite some time this site has looked at how much money is being spent on parks and open spaces across Greenwich borough. Next week a Greenwich Council scrutiny panel will look into parks across the borough. It raises some issues.
Documents highlight improvements to some parks and look at friends groups across parks who do great work. It doesn’t appear to highlight issues with low spending.
With cuts from central Government hitting hard, income related to new housing (some of the highest across the entire country) is a key source of funding yet has not exactly been flowing into parks and open spaces with just 0.3% of Section 106 income spent last year.
Another noticeable issue is that areas which receive funds is that having a Parks Group is a must.
Yet looking at areas that lack investment show it’s often deprived areas lacking strong community groups with some of the biggest anti-social behavior issues and healthcare problems. Exactly the areas that need investment the most.
Places where park groups are some of the hardest to create given deprivation, fragmented communities and apathy due to years of neglect.
Plumstead Gardens is one such area. It’s fallen a hell of a long way from the 1980s and 1990s. The ornamental pond and rose garden were filled in. The shallow children’s pool closed. The park hut long shuttered. It’s pretty scruffy on the whole yet is still very well used especially Nepalese people. It has no friends group nor much in the way of recent investment.
Abbey Wood estate is the same. A ribbon park runs east to west featuring listed sculptures though has seen progressive downgrades over 20+ years regardless of central government funding. Recent years have seen some trees and a bit of play equipment but overall investment is low.
If a Friends Group is needed to secure improvement then poorer areas will continue to miss out. Not that having a Friends Group is the key to great investment – as allocated money will still be the minimum by law.
Greenwich Council make a big thing of their Neighbourhood Fund yet it’s now a legal requirement to spend 15% of Community Infrastructure Levy income from new developments in local areas. Lewisham and Southwark councils, to give two examples, go for 25% spent locally.
I’ve previously covered numerous funds for improving open spaces despite overall central Government cuts. Another fund covered is New Homes Bonus income which sees Greenwich council receiving more per year from central government than the entire cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and many more. It’s in the top 10 out of 300+ UK local authorities.
Then there’s developer income which has been covered extensively. The authority have allocated just 0.3% of income last year from Section 106 towards parks. We only really know a lot of this as much like spending the minimum 15% locally, it recently became a legal obligation to report it.
Much like allocating far less from developer income towards improving streets compared to other London authorities, the gulf to other authorities is so vast commitments such as Woolwich’s Crossrail station funding do not cover the gap.
Poorer areas suffer a triple blow. Central government cuts exacerbated by a local authority allocating very little from funds they do receive towards parks and then pushing what is spent from that small pot towards areas with representation. Those at the bottom face seeing very little after all that.