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Recorder letters: Parks and green spaces and council v public

PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 February 2020

Valentines Park in Ilford has been voted one of the best in Britain. Picture: REDBRIDGE COUNCIL

Valentines Park in Ilford has been voted one of the best in Britain. Picture: REDBRIDGE COUNCIL

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Not everything is rosy in our park

Derek Moul, Ilford, writes:

Years ago we had two chief planning officers, a Mr Smith and a Mr Patterson, who were proud to call our borough Green Redbridge. If they are still around they must be appalled to see our borough become Concrete Redbridge.

Throughout our borough we have seen the gradual reduction of green spaces, the removal of suburban trees and the neglect of our parks.

As only one example of the neglect of our environment look at the deterioration of Valentines Park.

Valentines Park was noted for its iconic Rose Gardens, its avenues of different species of trees and the grassy banks to the lakes where students used to lay around whilst studying for their exams, not to mention the seats provided for those who wished to rest or simply take in the attractive environment.

All of the dozens of rose gardens have been grassed over, never to grace our park again.

The wonderful avenue of horse chestnut trees is being depleted by not replacing those that have died. These wonderful trees are coming to the end of their life, they were planted in the late 1930s and they have about a 40 year life span.

Any trees that are planted are done so out of the goodwill of grieving members of the public and none of these match the grand sycamours and plains that grace our park. They tend to be little fancy hybrids instead.

And there is nowhere to sit and enjoy our park. It is beyond belief, but over 40 bench seats have been removed from the park. This can be ascertained by going round and counting the empty concrete bases that indicates where the seats used to be. Then there were the seats in the shelters adjacent to the Griggs clock tower (the clock has not worked for 20 years!) These seats were removed on the bad advice of the police and now prevent folks sitting and enjoying the view down the boating lake. With the enormous council budget for security there is no case for their removal

It is now impossible to sit on the grass without carefully looking around for a clean spot, so much has the grassland in the north of the park has been ruined and fouled by the over population of the Canada geese. This has now reached the proportions of a plague. These pests used to be culled to limit their impact.

And so it goes on. Reduced tennis courts, elimination of bowling greens, neglect of the pathways, cricket ground fences, etc, etc.

The council's objective for the park should be to maximise the beauty and amenity of the park. This is at complete variance with the objectives of the Vision contractors charged with the management of the parks. It's objective is to minimise cost and maximise income - therein lies the rot.

Council destroying our green spaces

Lorraine Papworth, committee member, Save Our Green Space Manford Way Park group, posted the following on George Clarke's Council House Scandal Facebook page:

This week the destruction of our local park began.

Our community Save Our Green Space - Manford Way & Brocket Way Parks battled with Redbridge Council for months and months to pull plans to build container homes on our local park. Our community petition was signed by over 4,000 people and objections to planning reached over 1,250. We just wanted to keep our little park, in a deprived area for our children, families and elderly to enjoy.

The two blocks of three-storey containers are to be build directly next to a dementia care home, thus blocking out the view of the park from the communal areas. Such a sad outcome for the residents of Pinewood Care Home. These type of buildings were featured on George's programme. Not only is this type of 'home' a step backwards it is just inhumane to place families into spaces that would be illegal in any normal build, as they are so small inside.

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Councils are getting away with this substandard housing as they are deemed to be 'temporary'. Redbridge Council have admitted that at the very least these buildings will be in place for a minimum of 10 years!! Hardly temporary if you are a child.

So today we mourn the loss of over 55 per cent of our little park.

Our MP Wes Streeting actually signed a pledge during his election campaign to the Fields In Trust, saying he would defend parks and open green spaces. Manford Way Park got a Fields In Trust award in 2019 as a much valued green space and yet this week the bulldozers have moved in!

Something is very wrong with the society we live in.

Waste of time asking questions

Chris Roper, Ilford South, wrote an open letter to Ilford Council:

There is a widely held feeling within the borough that the involvement of members of the public in council held consultations is, for those members of the public, a waste of time in terms of how much or how little influence their contribution has the potential to affect already entrenched decisions made, too early, by councillors.

Many of the 300,000-ish Redbridge residents who have become disillusioned with the effectiveness of their past interventions no longer involve themselves in consultations or delivering a view at council meetings. However, there seem to be 26 people, with a hardcore of eight, in the borough who are determined to persist in making their views known to councillors and to cabinet members. It appears that 26, or eight, out of the 300,000 or so residents is too much for this council to tolerate. To address this and to "encourage" and "promote" more public involvement in council matters they have now "draconionised" the process by which the population of Redbridge, or 26 of them, may address council meetings.

When you consider that members of the public are allowed only two minutes to present their views to cabinet but that the appointed cabinet responder can waffle on forever one's view of the council's concept of democracy and public involvement is easily put into doubt.

I am awaiting replies to questions on this subject from Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford South, and two Freedom of Information requests.

There's a flaw in council's logic

Meenakshi Sharma, Valentines Road, Ilford, writes:

The council is very concerned that only a few people are asking questions at their meetings, so to encourage more to do so, are putting in restrictions about when and how questions can be asked. There is a flaw in this logic, which may have escaped them.

The council also wish to send selected groups meeting agendas and brief summaries of the meeting topics to help them participate. This is highly discriminatory and I asked, at the last full council meeting, that the list of these groups should be published on the website (no confidential information required). There are over 300,000 people in Redbridge and all of us deserve to know what is going on, not just the selected groups. Thus the agendas and summaries should be easily available to all, which is not difficult in this digital age.

As the council is implementing changes to the public questions, it needs to take certain things into account. The public, unlike the councillors, do not receive thousands of pounds for their time and effort.

I have asked questions at meetings and the reason I have done so, is the complete lack of real scrutiny by the people who are meant to do it and are mostly paid to do it: the councillors and co-opted members of the committees.

I guess this is not going to change any time soon. Given this, I asked at the last council meeting for a couple of things that might give the public some reassurance that the changes to public questions are not simply a way to shut people up.

1) There should be an icon on the homepage of the Redbridge website which links to questions put by the public at the various meetings. The questions page should clearly show the meeting and agenda item the question refers to; if the question was accepted or not, and if not, why not; the answers to the question and the supplementary question.

2) There to be an appeals procedure so that if a question is not accepted because it is deemed to be the same question that has been asked in the previous six months, the questioner can give reasons why it should.

This is a real issue of democracy, openness and transparency.

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