Response to draft Parks & Open Spaces Strategy 2009-2013 from Jesus Green Association
The deadline for comments during the summer ‘recess’ leaves little time to canvas the views of our members, so this is being copied to them in case they wish to add their own comments or take issue with this response on their behalf. However, in this response we have done our best to represent the wide range of users of Jesus Green.
Overall this is an aspirational document containing many laudable objectives only some of which will be achievable in the short to medium term. Some may not be achievable at all, for example "natural spaces have to be in the right places-within five minutes walking distance of the home" this will not always be achievable in an already built environment. The acid test will therefore be the manner in which this strategic document is translated into a short, medium and long term action plan.
It would be helpful if firm assurances were given to stakeholders that similar detailed consultations will be carried out before any specific aspects of the strategy are implemented.
Although we have certain criticisms of the wording of the draft (see section 2 below) we warmly welcome the inclusion of such statements as the intention to address local concerns about maintenance and to encourage more involvement of groups like the JGA.
Our detailed response follows your suggested format:
NATIONAL REGIONAL AND LOCAL CONTEXT.
We have already commented above on the accessibility within five minutes walking distance. Such a provision could be seriously wasteful of resources and spread the costs of maintenance, provision of services and security far too thinly.
Whilst growth and investment provision through section 106 monies is essential, there is also the maintenance, conservation and preservation of the historic green assets of Cambridge which should share in this 106 funding. Whilst we disagree with encouraging car access to central green spaces, enhanced public transport will give effective access to many more local families.
The key issues on page 8 cover all the essential aspects and we are pleased to see mention of "enhancement" of the parks and commons being achieved through the use of conservation and management plans. We are opposed to the spoiling of these spaces by the partitioning of selected areas for specialist purposes and the erection of buildings etc.
One large omission is the regulation of these open spaces by local government. Although local by-laws covering littering etc are available there is little or no indication that this is either pointed out or put into practice on the greens parks and commons, as far as behaviour, littering and good conduct are concerned.
4.3 Assessing quantity.
Does natural and semi natural space include allotments and would more allotments satisfy the shortfall in parks and open spaces? If so, would allotments and privately owned sites secured for community use fill the gap. The strategy document is not clear.
4.4 Assessing quality.
It is difficult to comment without seeing the "further text". No doubt this will be sent.
4.5 Assessing value.
This section seems to meet all requirements in Cambridge but we await the promised completion of conclusions.
4.6 Assessing accessibility.
We have commented on car access above. Strategy should focus on public transport facilities for wider access. This section also awaits completion of conclusions.
UNDERSTANDING DEMAND AND NEED
5.4 It is very satisfying to see that Jesus Green has risen strongly as peoples preferred park. It is therefore even more urgent to increase regular and effective maintenance and support conservation and preservation in this area and other historic open spaces.
The KEY ISSUES are fundamentally sound and it is appropriate that where external funds are sought then the need has been identified. However please add AND AGREED to the final key issue.
PARTNERSHIPS AND THEMATIC WORKING.
6.4 It is good to see that the strategy includes Friends Groups and volunteers. This will help the whole community to show individual and group responsibility.
The first KEY ISSUE is fine but the second one needs a note of caution added to the effect that the general use of open spaces for the use of the people should not be compromised by the needs of events which reduce usable space for significant periods and that income from these events should include a "maintenance and refurbishment" contribution.
SUMMARY OF EMERGING ISSUES
All stated are relevant although there is a certain amount of repetition and overlap.(see detailed notes in section 2 of this response)
Among the most important issues are: a) b) e) h) n) o) and q)
The five most important being:
a) b)e) n) and q)
Specific comments on text
Page 8 section 3 end (and issue (m) in the summary of emerging issues):
"The need to raise the profile, understanding and value of parks and open
spaces in Cambridge". Is the intention to say:
"The need to increase public awareness and appreciation of parks and open
P10 Section 4.2, Standards of provision, assessment of quantity of open
spaces is based on the populations estimates in Table 1 on page 7 which
includes an estimate for the city's population of 113,900 for 2006. It is
not clear whether this figure includes:
(a) undergraduate and graduate students of Cambridge University most of
whom also have access to extensive university and college sports
(b) undergraduate and graduate students of Anglia Ruskin University who
may not have access to such facilities.
The combined student bodies of these universities are a significant
proportion of the city's population (perhaps 20-25%) and the strategy
needs to recognise this and to state whether or not their needs are
recognised and addressed.
Of considerable concern is the weight attached in Section 5 to
the data derived from " . . . three surveys (two by post, one by 'phone
with limited sample size) in which users of parks were asked questions to
explore aspects of the way they use parks."
The author of para 5.2 states that " . . . The answers are not necessarily
comparable in pure statistical terms because of different methodologies and
slightly different wordings . . ." but then goes on in sections 5.2 to 5.7
inclusive to use percentages derived from the responses in the surveys to
identify trends in the use of parks and open spaces. Without sight of the
data it is hard to comment but it would seem wise to treat the trends and
inferences in these sections with extreme caution.
Page 21: The second sentence of the second para in Section 7.5 at the top:
"There is therefore a tension between the need to conserve the historic
open spaces in the city centre and the need to improve and enhance spaces
in the residential suburban neighbourhoods."
It does not seem appropriate to use the word ‘tension’ here. The sentence quoted above can be made more relevant by deleting the words
'tension between the'.
Further editing work needs to be done to the 22 emerging issues. As drafted they contain repetition and are a mixture of what might be described as broad aims such as:
(m) "The need to raise the profile, understanding and value of parks and
open spaces in Cambridge" which, as stated in 6 above, we think would be
better stated as "The need to increase public awareness and appreciation of
parks and open spaces".
and measurable objectives such as
(a) "Address local concerns about standards of provision and maintenance".
It would be better to separate these broad aims from the objectives. It
would also be helpful to subdivide both under headings such as:
Management issues (e.g. range of provision, standards of provision,
standards of maintenance)
Finance (funding of maintenance, funding of additions/improvements to green
Engagement with citizens.
There is much repetition - the same thing being said in different ways. For
example, (a), (b), (c), (d), (j), and (n), all involve engagement of some
sort with citizens.
Another example is provided by (e) "Revise conservation and management plans of key parks and open spaces" and (r) "Develop conservation, habitat and management plans for parks and open spaces".
Once the strategy document has been finalised, the JGA looks forward to playing a full part in helping to formulate the action plan to follow.
Submitted on behalf of the Jesus Green Association 13/8/09
Peter Constable Chair
Martin Thompson Vice-Chair
Richard Price Treasurer