Exeter Green Party has said it is alarmed at the ‘enthusiasm for the privatisation of our green spaces’ being shown by Labour-run Exeter City Council, in response to the Council’s consultation on their draft Parks and Green Space Strategy. The Strategy specifically highlights USA and Australia models, “where corporations find their public image enhanced and the tax bill reduced by funding public parks.” Greens warn that such an approach risks shutting out communities from being involved in the future and management of parks and green spaces.
Commenting on the proposed strategy, Green councillor Diana Moore, said:
“There is much to welcome in this document, including the desire to work with communities to identify how to improve green space and improve biodiversity. Though this must be seen as an investment not a ‘cost reduction measure’ and will require sustained commitment.
“However, we strongly oppose any suggestion of privatising our valued green spaces. Offloading city parks and green spaces into a ‘Trust’ as suggested, where this involves corporate funding and sponsorship, is not acceptable.
“The current arrangement with the Devon Wildlife Trust in managing the city’s valley parks is also a model with a proven track record of maintaining and enhancing our green spaces and increasing biodiversity. We would support more community organisations working in partnership with the Council to take on ownership and management of parks and green spaces. But there must be clarity and accountability on how land can be transferred and who to. Labour have promised such a policy more than once over recent years but it still hasn’t been produced.
Amy Sparling, who is Green Party candidate for St David’s ward, added:
“In other places, privatisation of parks and green spaces has resulted in the introduction of expensive leisure activities or using the spaces for a stream of income generating events. This simply puts a price on something that is essential for the health and wellbeing of our communities.
“Such an approach can also result in the degradation of spaces with negative impacts on wildlife and biodiversity. It also risks making parks elitist when they should be equally accessible and enjoyed by all.”