Friday, July 02, 2010

Bristol City Council parks and green spaces sell-off

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Its International Year of Biodiversity this year and what does our so-called green city want to do? Flog off some of our parks and green spaces! Given the very strong reaction from the public to this council plan from all over the city it would be undemocratic to continue with it – in fact they should be planning to increase green spaces wherever it is possible to do so as there is a value to them well beyond cash.

There are leisure, tourism, recreational, entertainment, sporting and health benefits in open, green spaces. Green spaces also help attract and keep businesses and help them to attract and retain the staff they need. There are key ecological and environmental function benefits eg storm water drainage and thus flood protection, as the land soaks up, temporarily stores and then gradually releases rain; taking carbon dioxide from the air, helping to fight climate change; provision of wildlife habitat and food supply, which aids biodiversity.

In an urban area open, green spaces are vital to the quality of our lives, offering relief from the all too common congestion and other negative effects of development. They are a way of connecting with and appreciating the natural world – vital to wellbeing and to encouraging respect for nature. We sorely need this respect in order to build the green attitudes needed to fight extremely serious environmental (and thus security) threats. We would do well to remember that even the scrubbiest, scruffiest bit of land (called poor quality, low productivity, marginal or ‘surplus’ by Bristol City Council) will absorb, store and gradually release rain, absorb carbon and other pollutants, grow wildflowers, provide a perch and perhaps some food for birds, and provide people with a feeling of space.

The Bristol Evening Post is absolutely right to speak out against these plans (‘Council must see bigger picture’, Post June 29) stating that green spaces are ‘not simply there for this generation’ and that we are merely ‘custodians of these open spaces’. I am working with the newly elected Green Councillor for Southville Tess Green following through on the 338 signature e-petition I submitted to the council when the Parks and Green Spaces policy was much discussed back in 2008. They failed to listen then but I hope they will now change their minds in response both to very strong public feeling and to the very clear multiple environmental, economic and social benefits.