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The lungs of the city

Peter Shirley assesses the potential fallout from council budgets cuts and their possible impact on Birmingham's green and open spaces

Darren Quinton Sunshine in Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston
Cannon Hill Park

Birmingham City Council is consulting on its budget plans.

These include a 20 per cent cut to parks and open spaces services which would mean the loss of park keepers, closure of most rangers' hubs and restriction of rangers' activities to essential health and safety issues.

There would be no supervision for volunteer or community activities or care for local wildlife and natural habitats.

In addition, some parks could be sold for development and lost forever to their localities.

While having sympathy for the council, which is being forced into making difficult decisions because of cuts by central Government, this is an area which it can ill afford to decimate.

One of the hallmarks of great cities throughout the ages is provision for the spiritual, physical and mental well being of their citizens.

From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to London's Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and from Birmingham's legacy of parks laid out during the Industrial Revolution to Central Park in New York, city fathers have recognised the values of open spaces.

We like to think that Birmingham is a civilised place.

Well, the very words 'civilisation' and 'civilise' mean 'a high level of cultural and social development', and 'make a place more pleasant and acceptable'.

If this seems intangible, then consider the extra costs for health and social services when people are denied access to parks and green spaces and lose opportunities for outdoor activities and contact with nature.

A coalition of Birmingham's green groups has written an open letter to the council, drawing their attention to the serious consequences if the cuts go ahead.

They have also offered to work with them to both protect and enhance green spaces.

They say: "The parks and green infrastructure of our city are the lungs of the city.

"They provide spaces for physical activity, communities to come together, children to play, carbon sequestration, flood alleviation and a contribution to improved air quality.

"Healthy, happy and engaged communities rely on a healthy environment."

It has been said that we are now in a post-truth age.

If these proposals become reality, Birmingham will be entering a post-civilisation age.

You can have your say. The consultation document is available here and the public can respond online until January 18 here.

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