Local election 2018: Campaigners urge parties to protect Newham's parks
PUBLISHED: 09:48 11 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:00 11 April 2018
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A green campaign group has urged parties battling for votes in the local election to protect the borough's parks.
Neil Sinden, director of London’s branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said green spaces across the capital are under threat from developers and pollution with some parks threatened with being turned into event venues.
“We’re extremely concerned about the pressures facing green spaces. London is a space for nature not just business, bustle and buildings,” Mr Sinden said.
The CPRE urged candidates of all political parties – hunting for votes before elections on May 3 – to vow to protect green spaces and make sure they stay “tranquil”.
Tony Leach of charity Parks for London – which wants councils to be legally bound to protect such spaces – said: “This is a hot topic. Local government can’t afford to use council tax to run services they aren’t legally obliged to.”
He said councils looking to sell off parks were on a slippery slope with outer London boroughs more likely to sell land to developers because they have more of it.
“Parks are really between the pincers with councils struggling with budget cuts and land needed for building. But parks provide so many benefits to communities in terms of social integration and wellbeing and they are free at the point of use. It would be really sad if some of those spaces are lost,” he said.
Newham spends about �£5million a year maintaining parks, green spaces, highway verges, patches of estate land, trees and play areas. Parks are managed by council spin off firm Active Newham with profits from tennis court or pitch hire used to maintain facilities.
The council is currently applying for a pot of money from Transport for London to invest in cycle paths, and to create quiet routes through low-traffic neighbourhoods.
Labour candidate for Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: “Newham certainly isn’t rural - and that means our open spaces are all the more vital.”
Ms Fiaz is standing on a pledge to improve health and air quality with a plan to make 22 parks and nine green spaces “safer and more attractive”.
This includes creating activity centres. “I am committed to putting people at the heart of all we do - so young and old will decide what they want to happen in those hubs - that could be creating walking routes, skateboarding facilities or outdoor fitness classes,” she said.
Newham Labour took credit for the council signing up to making London a national park city, a plan supported by London mayor Sadiq Khan to protect and promote green spaces.
“Our new strategy will make cycling easier, safer and cheaper. I’ll be opposing the Silvertown tunnel, which if built would lead to more vehicles on our roads and more air pollution,” Ms Fiaz said.
Green Party candidate Frankie Rose-Taylor said parks and green spaces are “extremely important” for recreation, air quality and well-being: “We strongly believe in supporting all of the beautiful green spaces we have. Their protection is a high priority.”
Liberal Democrat local party secretary Sheree Miller said events in parks can bring people together, but spaces should not be turned into venues.
She added a balance had to be struck between turning off lights in parks to cut light pollution and risking an increase in anti-social behaviour.
Democrats and Veterans Party Newham mayoral candidate Daniel Oxley said there was “huge pressure” to build homes which are “extremely expensive” and use up land to house wealthy people from outside the borough, ignoring the need for affordable housing.
He proposed public votes in planning decisions.
Newham Conservative Party said it wanted parks to be cleaner, safer and more attractive places for residents and children. Any events must be sensitive to the needs of parks, they added.