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Local elections 2018: Green campaigners urge parties to put parks first

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 April 2018

Roding Valley Park at Charlie Brown's roundabout. Picture: Ken Mears

Roding Valley Park at Charlie Brown's roundabout. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

A green campaign group has urged parties battling for votes in the local elections to protect the borough’s parks.

Tory GLA member for Havering and Redbridge Cllr Keith Prince and former Conservative Mayor of London candidate Zac Goldsmith MP, with Save Oakfields campaigners. Picture: Keith PrinceTory GLA member for Havering and Redbridge Cllr Keith Prince and former Conservative Mayor of London candidate Zac Goldsmith MP, with Save Oakfields campaigners. Picture: Keith Prince

Neil Sinden, director of London’s branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said green spaces across the capital are under threat from developers and pollution.

“We’re extremely concerned about the pressures facing them. London is a space for nature not just business, bustle and buildings,” Mr Sinden said.

The CPRE urged candidates of all parties – hunting for votes at the election on May 3 – to make sure parks remain “beautiful and tranquil”.

Tony Leach of charity Parks for London – which wants councils to be legally bound to protect such spaces – said: “This is a hot topic because local government can’t afford to use Council Tax to run services they aren’t legally obliged to.”

The fountain dating from 1898 in Valentines Park. Picture: Ken MearsThe fountain dating from 1898 in Valentines Park. Picture: Ken Mears

He added: “Parks are between the pincers, with councils struggling with budget cuts and land needed for building.”

On his party’s green credentials Conservative candidate Paul Canal mentioned the campaign to stop Oakfields Playing Fields in Fencepiece Road, Barkingside, being “concreted over” with 850 homes, which the planning inspector overruled last year.

“Our parks are a vital resource that should be open to everyone. They play a key part in our cultural and leisure offering. Access to open spaces not only promotes good health, but is key in improving people’s mental health,” he said.

The party pledged to provide two hours free parking in all parks to improve access for people on lower incomes.

Valentines Park in Ilford. Picture: Ken MearsValentines Park in Ilford. Picture: Ken Mears

On light pollution Mr Canal said the party would extend improvements to tackle “upwards glare” and fit motion sensors in council offices to turn off lights in empty rooms to stop the town hall “looking like a Christmas tree at night”. But he added paths would be “adequately” lit to promote safety and discourage crime.

Ilford Town independent candidate Meenakshi Sharma backed the CPRE call saying: “Parks are absolutely essential.” She said Valentines Park is one of the borough’s most important assets but slammed the recent conversion of Park House in the park into a nursery.

“It’s our park and we need to determine what happens in it so everbody can use it. We don’t have many green spaces,” she said.

Outlining its record, a Redbridge Labour spokesman said the party wanted to increase from nine the number of parks awarded green flags, meaning they meet a national standard.

Oakfields Playing Fields in Barkingside. Picture: Ellie HoskinsOakfields Playing Fields in Barkingside. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

He added the council committed £1.6million to improving parks’ play equipment and invested in outdoor gyms. The lighting used to replace halogen fittings in lampposts would produce less haze and lower costs, he said before adding orchards were planted in Goodmayes, Loxford and Claybury parks.

Green Party candidate for South Woodford Lee Burkwood supported the CPRE call saying members had been pushing the council to clean Roding Valley Park which he said was “notorious” for fly-tipping. The party repeated its call on Vision, which runs the park, to hire and pay cleaners the London living wage of £10.20 an hour.

Vision boss Iain Varah said the park is regularly cleared of litter, but the “cleanliness challenge” was “best addressed” by working with the community. He added the park is overseen by a nature conservation team paid the London living wage.

Mr Burkwood welcomed plans to improve pedestrian access around entrances near “a busy and sometimes dangerous” Charlie Brown’s roundabout but called for traffic to be re-routed.

Cllr Paul Canal plants a tree at Wanstead Rugby Club. Picture: Ken MearsCllr Paul Canal plants a tree at Wanstead Rugby Club. Picture: Ken Mears

He said homes should be built on brownfield sites and not on land at King George Hospital but warned in spite of support to save Oakfield Playing Fields the site is “still under threat” because “it has not been awarded protected status”. But Liberal Democrat candidate for Churchfields Gwyneth Deakins said her concern is park maintainance.

“I don’t know why the CPRE is concerned about light pollution. There are more direct threats to parks. The basic thing is we need the resources to keep them in good condition,” she said.

She added the CPRE had to be “realistic” about the need to hold paid for events in parks in order to raise money for their upkeep.

She echoed Mr Burkwood’s call for development of brownfield sites rather than the borough’s green spaces.

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