This report provides an overview of the use of public and green spaces within the borough.
Ullash Karia, Head of Leisure, Transport provided a presentation of parks and open spaces. He showed slides that highlighted the key points and achievements of this service. The Council directly managed 54 parks and open spaces, including 4 cemeteries across the borough. Income from parks and open spaces was generated from a variety of sources, not all of which were managed by the parks team – these included events and funfairs, outdoor sports bookings, etc. In addition, grounds and landscape maintenance including sports bookings were carried out by Idverde.
It was noted that the Council currently held 15 Green Flag Awards for the parks within the borough and a further two had been entered this year. A Green Flag Award was judged against 8 different criteria’s and was a national benchmark for quality and management of parks and open spaces. A total of 7,882 volunteer hours had been spent in parks and open spaces and major projects had been completed in 2018.
Ullash Karia highlighted the challenges faced by the Council, noting that the current parks strategy expired at the end of 2018 and officers would shortly commence work on a new one. The strategy would identify areas of open spaces deficiency with the borough but also set policy for the management of parks and open spaces both from a practical and strategical management basis, including a planning perspective. Furthermore, it was noted that much of the infrastructure within parks and open spaces was now aging, therefore an asset management strategy would also need to be developed as part of the new parks and open spaces strategy. Examples were provided of some of the work that had been recently completed by the Council.
Councillor David Morton thanked officers for the work that was completed at St Pauls Gardens and asked how the team was currently structured. In response Ullash Karia said that he had a dedicated team that was split between RBKC and H&F. The parks team in the Council was made up of 3 full time equivalent (FTE) officers covering the whole parks service.
Councillor Ann Rosenberg said that she had received some feedback, concerning residents feeling unwelcome in certain parks by the park friend’s groups and asked what measures were in place to monitor the work carried by these types of groups. Ullash Karia said that park friend’s groups were established as an independent voluntary local group to promote effective and beneficial usage of the park to the wider community. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was being updated and reviewed by officers to reaffirm the Councils expectations as part of an ongoing piece of work.
Councillor Ann Rosenberg said that a sports provider at a local park was notified by email that his/her contract had been terminated. She queried who was responsible for regulating the handling of the sports booking contracts. In response Ian Ross explained that Ideverde held an annual licence with tennis coaches. He said that details regarding this matter could not be provided at the meeting, however would follow this up with the Committee separately.
Councillor Iain Cassidy asked whether the Council had noticed an increase in parks usage because of outdoor sports bookings. Officers explained that there definitely had been an increase. A piece of work was being carried out to establish and record better parks usage and the details of the usage. In addition, schools were also using parks as a space for day activities. Therefore, the Council was currently exploring how an increase in usage could be managed better. Also, the Council was also working on introducing a charge to certain group bookings.
Councillor Wesley Harcourt, Cabinet Member for the Environment provided a brief overview of the Councils expectations and noted that a resident led Parks Commission would be set up to review the current parks strategy, including sports bookings. In addition, there had been an increase in the number of schools that also expressed an interest in using parks in the borough due to the lack of green space available onsite.
Councillor Ann Rosenberg felt that there seemed to be an increasing pressure on parks across the borough, particularly South Park. Councillor Wesley Harcourt agreed, and explained that it was challenging to get the balance right, ensuring everyone’s needs were being met. However, a small fee would be charged for organised group sports going forward. Furthermore, the next steps would be for the Parks Commission to agree a plan and establish which areas needed to be addressed going forward.
The Chair asked who would feed into the park’s strategy. Ullash Karia said that the parks commission would consult with residents. Key priorities would-be set-in line with the Council’s manifesto. Friends groups would also feed into the strategy. The Chair requested that regular park users and organised groups also had an opportunity to feed into the work of the parks commission. She asked that this initiative be advertised in local parks to capture community engagement, ensuring issues were being heard as part of the park’s strategy.