One of the finer characteristics of Enfield is its green areas and the breathing space these provide to a large population – well over 300,000 residents. Enfield has some 123 parks and open 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 lifestyle for generations to come.
Use of the parks is lightweight mainly because their facilities and attributes are under developed. Some have Green Flag status, a general recognition of their potential value to the community, but this is an entry level standard; their future demands a more visionary approach as advocated by FERAA.
What’s the problem?
For years, our parks have lacked champions at councillor and official level within the Borough. FERAA has often faced the dismissive attitude that the Council has no statutory obligation to maintain parks; a statement of fact, but not one that encourages us to believe the authorities place much emphasis on the contribution that parks make to a healthy society.
For years investment has been minimal because councillors of all complexions, and their officials, have viewed parks as non-productive assets, indeed a drain on the public purse. Vision has been in short supply: in an attempt to devise a framework for the parks two consultant studies were commissioned within the past 6 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 poverty of stewardship explains the succession of indifferent managers appointed to the Parks Dept 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.
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.
Users of the 22 larger parks have set up Friends Groups to press for and organize improvements in their respective parks. Seemingly, the best that residents can expect from their Council is that past under-provision for the parks will not be further diminished. If additional facilities are to be installed the Friends groups will have to find the monies themselves though sponsorship and grants.
FERAA concludes that our parks will not achieve their potential to enhance the lives of many more residents under Council management alone.