Take good care in the park


Related Topics
Yesterday's announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund of an ambitious funding programme for urban parks is timely and welcome. Parks are uniquely valued parts of our urban landscape and, in spite of serious patterns of decline, more than 8 million people will visit their local park today.

It is the social role that parks play in urban communities that is perhaps their most important contemporary function - as a realm of freedom in an otherwise expensive and regulated world. In this there are significant differences from the era in which the great Victorian town parks were developed. They were established to provide an escape from disease, over- crowding and promiscuous social behaviour.

It is this difference between then and now that raises potential problems for the best use of lottery money. The lottery guidelines naturally emphasise heritage, conservation and restoration themes; and because it is capital money, there is a consequent emphasis on landscapes, artefacts, the refurbishment of original buildings, appropriate Victorian fixtures and fittings and so on. But the dangers of it becoming a "new park-railings fund" must be avoided. There is already ample evidence that large sums of money spent on restoring original buildings without a programme of community consultation, development and involvement, will end in tears, as restored features are vandalised or burnt out again.

Applicants should apply some of their hardest thinking to the questions of safety and security. Parks are part of a continuum of contested public spaces in British towns and cities today, and problems of safety are simply addressed by the solution: more CCTV cameras, please. This will not do, even though at least one park in the North-east now has CCTV cameras and floodlights operating a dawn-to-dusk security regime among the play equipment and floral borders.

Elsewhere, parks managers are attempting to "crowd out crime" through events, encouraging more people back into parks, providing programmed activities and decent toilets, cafes and well designed play areas.

To be fair, the "heritage" guidelines display a sensitivity to these pressing social issues. But they also need to consider the unique role that parks now play as "public goods" in debates about urban environmental sustainability, bringing together ecological, social and cultural concerns in the one place. Will lottery funding not only allow parks to respect the past but also, and perhaps more importantly, anticipate a more sustainable future?

The writer was one of the authors of the Comedia/Demos report 'Park Life: urban parks and social renewal'.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before