Is this the Beginning of the End of Public Parks in Liverpool?

The Neighbourhood Select Committee will make decisions this Tuesday 13 June at 5pm in the town hall about the procurement exercise to secure a new operator for Calderstones and Harthill as well as Stanley Park and to own the leasehold of these parks. Effectively, these are the first plans to privatise our city parks.

Liverpool Parks Friends Forum are demanding a FULL community consultation before any decisions are made.

They say that the decision makers need to remember that parks belong to the people of Liverpool who should be fully consulted and part of one of the most important decisions in Liverpool parks lifetimes. We all must remember that the green and open space review was set up because the developers asked for it NOT members of the public who use the parks.

Now Mayor Anderson has announced that there is enough money for running the parks for the next three years we ask they take this time to run an open and transparent community consultation that the Liverpool park friends forum and other organisations can help with.

Emeritus Professor Robert Lee, MBE, FAcSS Chairman, Friends of Birkenhead Park, The North West Parks’ Friends’ Forum writes…

At a time when a number of Liverpool’s parks are threatened by the encroachment of speculative housing development as the Council seeks to raise its Council Tax receipts, the announcement that the management of two parks, Stanley Park and Calderstones Park, is to be privatised for a seven-year period should strike fear in the hearts of all those citizens of Liverpool who cherish their parks and benefit in so many ways from the wide range of facilities that they offer.

No one is in any doubt that the Tory Party (David Cameron/George Osborne and Theresa May/Phillip Hammond) is ultimately responsible for the parlous state of parks in England and Wales, as a direct result of the continuing austerity drive that has had such a calamitous impact on the role of local authorities, particularly on Merseyside. But the idea of privatising the management of two of Liverpool’s major parks must be strongly opposed.

The only way a community group or a private sector enterprise could meet the annual maintenance costs of over £340,000 would be by levying an entry charge or arranging a continuous schedule of events for which members of the public would have to pay. Glendale Liverpool Ltd. has been faced with a significant reduction in funding and manpower over the last few years and it is difficult to see how these two parks under private management could be maintained at a significantly reduced cost.

Stanley Park (Grade II*) is the only major public park in North Liverpool, which is an area that has always lacked sufficient green space. It was designed by Edward Kemp, the internationally famous Consulting Superintendent of Birkenhead Park, and is one of his most important works forming part of a chain of late-nineteenth century parks surrounding the centre of Liverpool. Calderstones Park is famous for the Calder Stones, its botanical garden, and its lake. But it is a family park offering playground facilities and a number of highly popular fairs. It is already under threat as a result of the granting of planning permission to Redrow Homes for the construction of 51 new homes that, if built, will cause lasting damage with the loss of the existing depot and other assets which have always been part of Harthill and Calderstones Park.

Even if new ways must be found to sustain the City’s famous parks at a time of continuing Tory austerity, the privatisation of management is not an acceptable way forward. Liverpool, with its continuing problems in relation to relative deprivation, poor health, and urban pollution needs to retain all its major parks in public management and ownership. Indeed, the case for expanding green space provision in the city is compelling. But transferring management to the private sector or community groups is not the way forward. It would be the start of a process of privatising the ownership of some of Liverpool’s main assets which are just as important to the health and prosperity of the city as they were when they were originally opened for public use.