UK 2018 Boundary Review - What are your thoughts? Would Horfield Common be better served by being located fully within one decision-making/adminstrative area?
In 2018, the boundary review launched by UK Government in 2016 will be implemented. You can find out more information about what is being proposed, and why on the Boundary Commission for England's website here.
The boundary review could offer an opportunity for Horfield Common. We'd like to know your views about this.
Ward boundaries in the area - overseen by the local government electoral boundary commission - have gone back and forth in the last 15 years. Wellington Hill Playing Field, for example was historically part of Bishopston ward; the boundary between Bishopston and Horfield wards was redrawn in XXX to include Wellington Hill Playing Field in the Horfield and Lockleaze neighbourhood partnership area, which meant that it could be proposed for sale for development in 2010 as part of the Area Green Space Plans. If the field had remained in Bishopston ward, it would not have been possible to propose it was sold as there is not enought green space per head of the population in Bishopston, Cotham and Redland neighbourhood partnership areas to meet the minimum standards set out by the local authority; whereas in Horfield and Lockleaze, there is considered to be an over supply of green space when the same standards are applied. So, it's hardly a thrilling subject for many, but boundaries matter when it comes to parks and green spaces.
Horfield Common currently sits across 2 Parliamentary, 3 local council ward, multiple contract, 3 devolved decision-making/BCC NP & multiple other administrative boundaries including those, for example for the police force and other statutory services.
This can lead to duplication, conflicting planning, complex (sometimes conflicting, sometimes repetitive, sometimes incoherent) communications and is challenging. When decisions about money are involved, this can be compounded - with a lack of systems and processes in place to work across these boundaries (and in some cases a lack of will); and in some cases, funders and decision-makers are not prepared to fund projects for the whole common in case someone living on the 'other' side benefits from the improvements (including, for example new trees being planted).
Historically, as a result of these systemic issues (& notwithstanding the best efforts of a number of individuals), Horfield Common has not benefited. There have been repeated attempts to develop parts of the common as they have been viewed as small 'bits' which could be hived off rather than parts of a larger well-used and valued community green space.
Part of the motivation for our Horfield Common mapping project was to ensure that the whole of the common was visible on one plan (up until that point images often used to illustrate proposals (including those referred to in meetings concerning the common e.g sale of Welly Hill Field proposal in 2010) showed only fragments of the whole common). Frequently people looking at Horfield Common from a desktop/adminstrative perspective are viewing only the section in either Horfield Ward, Bishopston Ward or Henleaze Ward and are not aware that there are other parts of the common. This has led to some very poor decision-making which has impacted negatively on the area and on the community who live here.
The Friends have been able to join-up a lot of activity Horfield Common-wide; we were initially set up (& have continued to grow) to ensure that local people – and the community which surrounds the common but which is not recognised administratively - are able to influence plans and decision-making about the whole of the common area.
Over the last 10 years FOHC volunteers have developed strong working relationships locally & have repeatedly raised awareness of these issues; but it is time consuming & tedious – and every time there is a change of personnel or election, it can mean starting again, which is exhausting. As members of the Friends' committee move on and new local people take on roles within the Friends' group, it is unreasonable to expect volunteers in this area to be able (or prepared) to duplicate & triplicate their time, energy and efforts to stay on top of this. In reality, it means more time is spent trying to stay on top of this than in actually getting involved in practical improvements on the common. and this is concerning for the future of the Friends group. All neighbourhood decision-making and planning processes in the city currently take place through administrative structures which are not easily (sometimes not at all) able to work across the boundaries that are set through local and national government.
Very few people volunteer to get involved with their local parks group because they want to spend more of their time in meetings - and when volunteers are being asked to attend 3 separate meetings in the same week (sometimes 2 on the same night) to talk about the same things with different groups of people because boundaries through the common mean there can't just be one meeting, it's not very rewarding or motivating to continue.
Given the current review of funding for UK Parks (see here for a recent national news article which features Bristol's parks as a case study: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/oct/23/public-parks-nightmare-funding-crisis-parliament-inquiry) and the reduction in budgets available to local authorities which do not have a statutory obligation to maintain good quality parks and green spaces, Friends of and Action Groups are increasingly recognised as crucial in ensuring that public parks and green spaces continue to be assets for communities.
Nationally, Friends of groups’ volunteers contribute hundreds of thousands of hours to support local authorities to enhance public parks and green spaces. This included fundraising more than £30 million in 2015, and delivering activities and events worth more than twice that which help ensure that parks and green spaces are welcoming, safe and enjoyable for all.
For more information about the role of Friends groups & the current crisis impacting on parks and green spaces nationwide, see: https://www.hlf.org.uk/state-uk-public-parks-2016 & NFPGS’ Way Forward for Friends' Movement 2016 available here: http://www.natfedparks.org.uk/nfpgs-literature.html
The Communities and Local Government Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the ‘Future of Public Parks,’ to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and to consider concerns from across the UK that their existence is under threat. There is genuine concern that the ‘Future of Public Parks’ appears bleak. To see Bristol Parks Forum's submission to the enquiry, see here
For more information about the select committee enquiry see: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/news-parliament-2015/public-parks-launch-16-17/ and for recent examples of some of the ways in which other UK local authorities have responded to the lack of funding for parks and green spaces, see:
1. Parents protest pay to play parks privatising green spaces: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/dec/13/parents-protest-pay-to-play-parks-privatising-green-spaces?CMP=twt_gu;
2. Britain’s Public Parks: 175 years old but will they survive? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/outdoors/11908169/Britains-public-parks-175-years-old-but-will-they-survive.html;
3. Britain’s Public Parks threatened with privatisation as cuts stretch council budgets http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-public-parks-threatened-with-privatisation-as-cuts-stretch-council-budgets-10349408.html;
4. London’s Parks could become inaccessible to the public http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-33205239
Co-ordinating FOHC's work and activities across 3 different decision-making areas, each with individual decision-making groups, planning processes, budgets, willingness (or otherwise) to support projects on the common which may benefit residents living outside of a specific boundary - even if that means in reality just on the other side of a road - is time consuming and unsustainable.
IN VIEW OF ALL OF THE ABOVE - WE HAVE A QUESTION FOR OUR MEMBERS:
Should Horfield Common all be in 1 constituency? We have an opportunity (there is no guarantee any request will be responded to) to make the case for this.
Please let us know what you think?
PLEASE NOTE: We do not want - at this stage - to get in into any more detail re: which ward/constituency, pros/cons of each etc - but just to get a sense whether or not our members think it is worth us feeding in to the boundary review with a request for this?