Friday, 18 January 2008

A symbol of park neglect

The Paddling Pool, Highfields Park, has been like this for nearly twenty years.

Someone sent me a letter in the post on Wednesday. It was a cutting from the Letters' Page of the Nottingham Evening Post dated 29 December 2007. It was headed 'Just why are our parks neglected?' and went on to ask five questions. I don't know whether this has prompted any further letters from readers. I will have to find out. The person who sent me the cutting was also critical of the council. It included the following observation: 'If the Portfolio Holder (the councillor responsible for parks in Nottingham) is not told the true state affairs by senior officers, then how can problems be solved?'. Quite.

Now back to the five questions, which I summarise as follows:

1) Why have the parks been allowed to deteriorate.
2) What has happened to the money for park maintenance?
3) Why do parks need volunteers and outside help when there are budgets?
4) Is Nottingham City Council planning to pass parks over to residents?
5) Where will the £35m for 'improvements' come from?

The writer also said that residents don't use parks because of their 'abysmal state (and) neglect (or) are scared to use them'. Given what one knows about the state of Nottingham parks in general, it was, by any measure, a reasonable letter. Lenton Recreation Ground is an exception for a number of reasons, which I have explained on a number of occasions, most recently in my last blog on Wednesday (16 Jan).

When it comes to Nottingham's parks and neglect, one place in the city sums it up — the Paddling Pool in Highfields Park. I pass it when I go to Beeston on the bus or if I walk. The water was drained and the grass began to grow in the late-1980s. My own kids had great fun paddling there, but never my grandchildren. When I once asked a councillor why the paddling pool was not maintained or returned to its former glory I was told 'If we do anything it will be Beeston kids that use it'. A reference to the fact that it is right on the boundary between Nottingham and Broxtowe councils. The fact that the Lenton Abbey council estate is yards away was ignored at best, at worst forgotten

In many ways what the city council plans to do with the paddling pool will be a test of its intent when it comes to the future of our parks. The past is something we can do little about when it comes to Nottingham's parks. We should do everything in our power to make sure things are better in the future and that local residents have the confidence to get involved and even to take charge. As for the £35m or £36m or whatever it is, which will be spent over next ten years or so, we should make sure it all does go to parks with more besides. The future, however bright it seems to the men in suitz, is still far from perfect and, as a true friend of Nottingham's parks, I will continue to argue for a parks strategy which empowers communities and ensures that parks are managed and staffed by one council department, with priority being given to employing local grounds staff. Parks need staff just like streets need police officers on the ground.

As for the five questions I think you know the answers already and so does the writer. If he got a few readers thinking then his letter was a success — which is how I view my blog.

The two engines on the British Airways plane that crash-landed at Heathrow yesterday "did not respond" to a demand for increased thrust around two miles from touchdown, an initial report said today.

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