Parks – Red alert on open space

The idea of the Victorian park was to allow the public to escape the pollution of the city’s factories. Today we need our parks to escape the pollution and vagaries of the consumer society. There is no pressure to buy in a park, which makes them very dangerous places. Not because you will get mugged – well not quite. But the fact that you may be in danger of enjoyment that cost nothing. Our parks are just about the only public places that encourage reflection – where you are allowed to sit on a bench, or lie on the grass staring at the sky, listening to the chatter of children at play and people in light conversation. Almost nowhere to spend money. What do our parks lack? A good maintenance routine, a few wardens to check them after hours and a few ephemeral happenings from time to time. The park, to a greater extent, especially for children, is a space where they can exercise their imagination free of the excesses of machines, advertising, professional entertainment and commerce.
Will a new scheme in park regeneration proposed by the City Council, protect this concept of the park?
In some parts of the city, where the regulatory ratio of open space to head of population is dangerously close, or perhaps exceeding, the limit, we could ask these questions: Do you notice much pulling down of buildings, to produce park areas?; How many areas of green space have been, or are about to be built upon, mainly for private housing? Has the city council ever asked you if it is OK to “sell off” public land? that the building of our schools be put in the hands of Safeway’s supermarket? that our universities and colleges might be swayed by the sponsorship of big business? Do you think our parks will be treated differently? Do you think that even the money grabbers will look out at parks with the benevolent eye of the carer? That even THEY will draw the line somewhere?
Not a bit of it. The control of our green spaces in our cities is the next big challenge between private enterprise and the general public,

On one side there are the developers, the fast food operator, the
franchise experts – this is a BIG market, (parks, the UN-colonised
territory) and there will be nothing small scale, or localised about it. Also on this side will be the advertising and marketing team of the City Council, guiding Glaswegian’s toward a “better, brighter future”. If only they would give up the autonomy of their green space to what they call “partnerships with business”; (The same way as we have given up our public housing.)

Also on this side is the stolen credit. For all the good work ideas, and time, that individuals or groups, including Council members, have given in an effort to keep the public’s estate free, useful, and for everyone. These hard-fought-for reforms are usually highlighted as the achievements of those who opposed them.

What should really be a warning, and be ringing bells, and have red lights flashing: to tell us that the last vestige of public space is under the starters orders in the race to privatise parks is when the Council asks for the public’s opinion in the matter. This is a sure sign that something is on its way to oblivion.(see questions below)

On the other side, are the vast majority of the public…the ones
who don’t, or can’t get near, or will not fill out questionnaires.
Perhaps these are the people least aware of the impending doom.

The thing that upsets predatory ” business partnerships” the most is this: PEOPLE LIKE THE PARKS THE WAY THEY ARE! There are some problems that could be easily solved by offering employment. But the park, to most people, is where you can feel equal with your fellow citizen. No one has a fancier bit of park than anyone else; the seats are all the same price – free! We are all getting wet under the same sky, or enjoying the same sunshine, being stung by the same bee’s, listening to the same birds. The park is the place where we go for a thoughtful walk, a laugh with the kids, or where, on a nice day, wintry, or sunny, we can just sit and smile at the wonder of it all. If this is what your idea of the park should be, I urge you to pay attention to the questionnaire mentioned below, and to the wider implications of the “colonisation” of our parks.

Here are some questions from the Glasgow City Council’s public
consultation on Parks and Open Spaces that the public should be
especially wary of. If you wonder where the questions are leading, tag on to the end of each question:

Should the council put this in the hands of private business or a

3. As the Council develops the city, regenerating and renewing
neighborhoods, sometimes areas of parkland or open spaces can become isolated from local communities, no longer serving the purpose for which it was intended. Should the Council remove some areas of green space if these areas could be replaced with alternative sites that would be more accessible to local people?
4. Land Services together with other partners promote and deliver a wide range of events and activities that are well supported by local communities and many draw a considerable number of visitors to the city. This is an important role as attracting more visitors and tourists has an impact on the economic health of the city and helps to consolidate Glasgow as a stylish destination for tourists What could the Council do to encourage more community involvement in events and activities in parks?

5. The Display Houses at Queens Park, Tollcross, Botanic Gardens and Glasgow Green Winter Gardens offer visitors the opportunity of viewing extensive collections of tropical and subtropical plants, displayed within a glasshouse setting. Do you think that plant display houses currently offer enough interest for visitors. If not, how could they be improved?

11. Outdoor activities that are currently provided within Glasgow parks during the summer are, pitch and putt, tennis and bowling. In general, usage figures have declined in recent years. What other recreational activities would you like to see provided in parks?

12. Various surveys indicate that the public feel there is a lack of
general amenities such as toilets and catering facilities in parks.
Would you support the Council entering into arrangements with commercial operators to provide; you support the Council entering into arrangements with
An enhanced golf service?
Expanded horse riding services?
Pony trekking?
Five-a-side football?
Café/Restaurant facilities?
Others? [sic] +++++++

20. Glasgow has a range of woodland areas consisting of trees in parks, trees in streets, new woodland plantings and older wooded areas. The Council is developing a City Woodland Initiative to address the woodlands and their management as a single resource. Do you agree that the Council should work in partnership with other agencies to extend and develop woodlands in the city for environmental and leisure purposes?

Full document below.G.C.C.L.S.

This questionnaire will be used by the council as a “public consultation” it is important that the public (who are concerned about keeping parks a non commercial zone) reply to the questionnaire. Even only to answer the highlighted questions above. See links below


Glasgow City Council Land Service (copy)
Strategic Review of Parks and Open Spaces Public Consultation – April 2004 Response Paper