Friday, 28 April 2006

Time to scrap a few parks Driving near home this evening I had to brake slightly because some kids had let their ball run into the street. I noticed that they were playing cricket on a patch of grass about half the size of a parliamentary committee room, lacking alternative space in their neighbourhood. Safely home to find this: "Speaking at a public accounts committee hearing on urban green space, ODPM permanent secretary Peter Housden said cash-strapped local authorities should rethink their attitude to parks and gardens whose upkeep they could not afford." (From New Start magazine). Thinks, that's odd. Would this be the same government that so strongly and laudably emphasised green spaces as a key feature of liveability? (Of what? Of liveability. Oh right.) And would this be the same Thatcherite government, not known for its generosity towards local government, that now is less sure, shall we say, of the economic value of the public realm? We should not pass over the irony of these comments being recorded on the day we heard the news of the death of Jane Jacobs. She was fiercely, and rather more astutely, critical of bad parks, which she thought could exaggerate "the dullness, the danger, the emptiness" of unattractive neighbourhoods. But she understood their complexity in a way that most local authorities do I think, but which may be a little too subtle for our central public space policy-makers. Time to dig out Ken Worpole's Park life for a reassuring flick-through. (Thanks Martin.)

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