We are gathering feedback until 24 January 2021 on savings proposals that will affect how we deliver services, including services for parks and open spaces. You can find out more about these council-wide savings proposals or read more below on how these proposals might affect parks and open spaces. The findings from this engagement will be included in a report to our cabinet in February 2021.
Parks and open spaces
We are proud of our 127 parks and open spaces and we will prioritise keeping them clean and safe. We will reduce the amount we spend by having a single maintenance team, stopping bedding schemes and extending our ‘meadowing’ approach to grass-cutting. We’ll also be talking to local groups about how we can spend less on maintaining facilities such as bowling greens.
What does this mean for Croydon’s parks and open spaces?
As one of London’s greenest boroughs, our 127 green spaces are a hugely important resource for so many of our residents – something many of us have become increasingly aware of during the Covid-19 pandemic. For this reason it will remain our priority to keep these valued spaces clean and safe for everyone to enjoy. However, with consideration for the savings that the council must make, we will need to change how we work in our greenspaces which will impact how they are managed and developed by staff. We will also be asking park users to be even more considerate with how they use the green spaces and facilities, for example, such as taking litter home with you.
Below are a number of questions and answers which cover the majority of the way our greenspaces services could be impacted.
Will there continue to be a ‘Parks’ team?
Currently, there are different council teams which, to varying degrees, work in our parks and greenspaces. The two key teams with overarching responsibility for these green spaces are the Grounds Maintenance team and the Active Lifestyles officers, responsible for parks and greenspace development. Going forward, the proposal is for these officers to merge into one overarching ‘Parks’ team.
Through the unification of the two teams and a new ‘Parks’ team structure, the ambition is to provide efficient delivery of a refined and prioritised service. This would however mean a reduction in the overall staffing capacity.
What is a ‘meadowing’ approach to grass-cutting?
A ‘meadowing’ approach within our parks and green spaces would mean some changes to how grass has been maintained. Firstly, there would be a reduction in frequency of grass cuts across these greenspaces; including parks, roadside verges and grass around areas of housing, churches, cemeteries and schools. Currently, we aim to cut the grass every 3-4 weeks in the growing season. With the proposed staffing changes and under a meadowing approach, this frequency would need to be reduced to possibly an 8-10 week cycle and the arisings would not be removed. Similarly to grass-cutting, the frequency of delivering certain horticultural services across the borough would reduce.
There is also the potential for additional measures, such as leaving some parts of larger greenspaces to naturalise on their own, and increasing the number of conservation cut areas we have across the borough. In addition, we will continue to work with our partner, London Wildlife Trust, to expand the Beautiful Butterfly Border project and increase wildflower areas in our green spaces with local groups.
Maintenance of pitches for organised sport, including cricket and football, will continue, however there may need to be ongoing changes in how this delivered as a new grass-cutting regime is implemented.
What is happening to bedding schemes?
The grounds maintenance team have already started reducing bedding area sizes and removing some of the bedding areas within our green spaces. These reductions will support cost savings for the Parks budget. As some beddings areas remain, this is another opportunity for residents, businesses or groups to engage with council officers and take up responsibility through organised groups for these areas for public enjoyment. In addition, where greenspaces have ornamental gardens, the grounds maintenance team will be taking a similar approach.
What does this mean to ongoing and future park projects?
Due to the significant challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the council’s financial position, a number of parks development projects have had to be put on hold. This is likely to be the case for the time being.
It is still our intention to progress with park development projects, however this will evidently have to be decided within the council’s new financial context, including our aim to secure external funding sources. Despite reduced numbers, staff capacity for parks development does remain. It will become increasingly important for residents and staff to work well and efficiently together in the ambition to create good quality greenspaces.
Will there still be a council staff presence in our parks and open spaces?
There will remain a mobile staff presence within our parks. This will include park rangers who do a number of important jobs, including park cleansing, waste collection and tasks such as grass-cutting and playground inspections. As with the grass-cutting regime above, there would likely be a reduction in frequency of services delivered, such as waste collection. Our Neighbourhood Safety Officers will continue to spend some of their time in our green spaces.
Many of our parks and greenspaces are openly accessible to the public at all times. Through staffing reductions it would not be possible to lock and unlock the parks that have been closed daily in the past. This is already happening due to temporary staff reductions as a result of Covid-19.
How will this impact existing facilities and planned activities?
The use of facilities and planned activities have been seriously impacted as a result of Covid-19, and we are grateful for residents obeying the rules and guidance set out by central government and the council. The results of the public survey held in summer of 2020 revealed that facilities such as park toilets remain a priority for park users. As a result of the pandemic, use of and access to these facilities has had to change, but there are no further changes to these facilities planned as a result of this consultation.
As part of our aim to ensure longer-term sustainability of our parks and green spaces, we will look to invest in new infrastructure and technology as part of a responsible asset management approach.
There are other facilities within our green spaces, the maintenance and use of which will require changes. The main example of which are the bowling greens and pavilions within some of our parks. Parks team officers will be engaging with the relevant clubs and association on this matter in spring of 2021.
With regards to planned activities, such as events and use/booking of sports pitches, we are still required to adapt how such activities can take place due to Covid-19 and this will continue until it is safe to do otherwise.
How can residents support our parks and open spaces?
In the first instance, we would like to extend our thanks to the many residents who have already been supporting the Parks team by practically helping with litter clearance (and being another set of eyes and ears on the ground) in many of our green spaces throughout what has been a very challenging year. The on-the-ground work was reinforced by the many public survey respondents who said they were willing to support their local greenspaces.
The most effective way to support our local greenspaces is through established community and ‘Friends of’ park groups. This way, an established group can represent collective voices from the area of a green space and engage directly with relevant Parks team officers on an ongoing basis. The latest list of ‘Friends of’ park groups can be found here. Finally, we are also working on a longer term renewal plan for our parks and green spaces, which we will be engaging our ‘Friends of’ groups on, and will be sharing online in due course.