It is no coincidence that all the local Level councillors are members of the Green Party and that the MP for the Level’s area is the first ever Green MP. They have all been elected precisely because the residents of this area are concerned enough about Green issues to vote for them. So here we have some reasons, all come from Green sources, why the Level’s local councillors and its MP should be actively supporting our campaign.
Green Leader Caroline Lucas MP in her speech to the 2010 Green spring conference said on ‘Challenges facing the Greens now’:
“Greens proving that you can stick to your principles and still get things done.
…In Manchester, saving green space for the local community.
In Brighton, successfully fighting against yet more supermarkets turning the city into another clone town…
Across the country, the same approach: sticking to our principles, and getting things done.”
And Green attitudes to deal with the encroachment of open spaces is to be found in ‘Shaping the future of our natural environment, Green Party submission to Defra, October 2010′:
“3.14 As we see more and more nibbling at the edges of our green spaces, both rural and urban, we need to find a way to reverse the process, where instead of housing claiming ever more green spaces we can reclaim built up areas and turn them into more natural spaces.” Secs. 3.15 – 3.20 are all highly relevant in particular: “some aspects that are less measurable…health and general happiness of populations that have access to green spaces…”
Much of sec. 6 applies to the management of the situation at the Level: “…we need to move away from the financial utilitarian approach (here think, Parks for People bid) that regards our natural environment as a resource to be exploited (here think, digging a whopping great hole in a lawn and filling it with concrete).” And in 6.6 a pertinent warning about the use to which developers’ S106 Agreement money is often put (unsubstantiated rumours here that developers whose S106 money is funding the new skate park want it moved).
So, much evidence of Green aspirations. Well, now it’s time for Brighton’s Green councillors to follow their leader by taking a leaf out of Manchester’s book and saving the Level’s green space for the local community in Brighton by putting into action the rhetoric of ‘Shaping the future of our natural environment’.
It may be laudable to be “successfully fighting against yet more supermarkets turning the city into another clone town” but it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff – everyone against Tesco – that’s not so hard.
But to sort out the mess that the council has made of its plans for the much-needed renovation of the Level, now that’s something altogether more challenging.
It’s time for the Greens to accept their part in the current debacle: they failed to adequately monitor the Parks for People bid, thereby allowing the council to submit a bid based entirely on the dubious notion that the heritage of the Level is the municipal one created in the 1920s by Superintendent of Parks Captain Bertie Hubbard MacLaren.
But all is not lost. There is still time to save the current bid, and the Level. The Greens should now insist that the Parks for People bid go forward to Stage 2 with the emphasis subtly realigned to emphasise: (a) the preservation of the heritage of the north end of the Level as an historic open green space and (b) the restoration of the heritage of the south end as a contemporary and functional ‘built’ play environment fit for the 21st century, not for the 1920s – this will naturally include the state-of-the-art skate park that the skaters have long been promised.
What the Greens must not do is fall for the council’s dire warnings that to keep the north end open and develop a new skate park where it is would sound the death knell for the bid. That’s just hubris on the part of the council and their consultants – ‘experts’ who having wrongly advised the council on their bid now adopt the role of harbingers of doom. It also might be timely to remind the council of the declaration it has made on page 33 of the bid concerning ‘any misleading statements’, ‘any information knowingly witheld’, ‘you will cancel the grant and reclaim the money we have received’, and ‘withdraw any grant you offered my organisation’.
Now is the time for the Greens to get stuck in behind a campaign that will benefit all of the Level’s users and not to be complicit in the council’s current face-saving exercise which will prove both costly (yet more of the same dodgy ‘consultations’, ‘forums’, ‘working parties’, ‘focus groups’ etc.), and divisive to the community at large.