The Federation of Enfield Residents’ & Allied Associations
Enfield Residents’ & Allied Associations

Enfield Parks – the lungs of the Borough

 

One of the finest characteristics of Enfield is its green areas and the breathing space these provide to a large population – well over 320,000 residents and rising. Enfield has some 124 parks and spaces – few other boroughs in London can compare with this inheritance. Some parks have historic settings and heritage buildings, others boast sports facilities. Properly sustained the parks will support a superior healthy lifestyle for generations to come, and foster community relations as no other facility can.

It is observed that some 85% of residents use the parks at some time, with some groups, especially families, frequent visitors. Our schools rate them as a major educational resource for investigating ecology and the environment.  

But use of the parks can achieve yet higher footfall if their facilities and attributes are constructively invested. For instance, taking exercise in the parks has hardly begun to be developed. 8 have Green Flag status – a general recognition of their potential value to the community – but this is an entry level standard; 2 more will apply in 2015. All our parks can contribute to sustain a quality of life, through the physical and social health of a growing population, but only if a more visionary approach is applied, as advocated by FERAA.

 

Analysis

For years, our parks have lacked champions at official level within the Borough. FERAA has often faced the dismissive attitude from Council officers that it has no statutory obligation to maintain parks, a statement of fact, but not one that encourages us to believe the authorities are alert to the contribution parks make to a healthy, engaged society.

For years parks investment has been minimal because officials have viewed parks as non-productive assets, indeed a drain on the public purse. Vision has been in short supply. Two consultant studies were commissioned within the past 8 years, costing over £200,000, supposedly to inform a new parks strategy. The outcome was yet more documentation, no clear vision and not a further penny for the parks. The role for parks still needs clear definition and a resolve to carry forward a positive plan.

The poverty of stewardship explains a succession of indifferent senior managers appointed to the Parks Dept in the recent past, and the evident lack of direction and good resource management that followed in their wake. FERAA believes the borough’s parks deserve much better and is pressing for needed improvements with the current management.

Enfield parks have so far escaped the pressure to accept development in the name of revenue-raising, but FERAA has discovered all too often that officials pay scant regard to preserving and enhancing the green endowment. In 2005 an ill-conceived bid to construct a large student township in Trent Country Park was narrowly averted by public pressure in the face of strong resistance from the Borough’s planning officials. But in the last year alone two schemes to build schools into two parks have revived residents’ concerns that officials will erode this resource, if not headed off by public pressure. Once parks have been concreted, there is no turning back. FERAA takes the view that mimicking inner London boroughs, which have progressively eroded their open spaces in urban sprawl, is no way to safeguard the standard of living for Enfield’s residents.

 

Public Involvement

Users of the 22 larger parks have set up Friends Groups to press for and organize improvements in their respective parks. These groups achieve startling results from seemingly trivial resources and deserve wider public support.

Sadly, their efforts are being offset by Council reductions in servicing our parks; parks are being used as a resource to sustain other local government functions and the long term value of these assets is being further diminished.

Friends have been advised that if additional facilities are to be installed in parks the Friends groups will have to find the monies themselves though sponsorship and grants.

FERAA concludes our parks will not achieve their potential to enhance the lives of many more residents under Council management alone. Short termism and political opportunism will triumph if residents do not forcefully insist on different priorities, so that the next generation may enjoy an environment fit for 21st century humanity.

Supporting your local residents association and park friends group can make a valuable contribution.

FERAA