Birmingham’s parks need more investment to achieve potential as the environmental and social lifeblood of the city, a council watchdog believes.
With improved parks people enjoy a greater quality of life, healthier lifestyles and longer lives, urban flooding can be reduced and the city can hit its climate change targets, it was claimed.
Now the leisure, sport and culture scrutiny committee is urging city chiefs to put more money into facilities, environmental projects and wardens for the future. These include developing a blue strategy for the city’s brooks, rivers, canals, pools and streams with the aim of making Birmingham’s waterways walkable.
Chairman John Alden (Cons, Harborne) said: “There is no money to improve our parks, we just about maintain them. The Cabinet member for leisure needs to argue for an increase in the parks budget. We need to get more children involved doing things like pond-dipping and nature trails. And in these difficult economic times they are something people can use for free.”
He said increasing parks and woodlands might also offset Birmingham’s climate change targets.
The committee heard evidence that access to decent parks, particularly in deprived areas, contribute to the quality of life, emotional well-being and health of the population. They were also told Birmingham has a huge network of brooks and pools which can help the city reduce a flood risk with some investment as well as provide a great public and wildlife resource.
The Environment Agency has urged the city to increase overspill capacity of pools and rivers to deal with floods, particularly after dramatic floods in Tewkesbury and Rotherham and localised flooding in Birmingham.
Coun David Pears (Cons, Sutton Trinity), of the Nature Conservation Policy Group, believes they should go a stage further and draw up a strategy for the city’s waterways. He said: “Birmingham has an exceptional geography and location, being built on top of a national watershed it is cut by a fine tracery of small rivers and brooks which have been completely overlooked in planning, engineering and management terms.These hold the key to dealing with urban flooding. We want to increase public access to our brooks and rivers to make Birmingham Britain’s first walkable city.”
City nature, conservation and sustainability manager Nick Grayson said that Birmingham had far more green spaces than many similar cities and was in an excellent position to deal with the climate change issue. “It is a surprisingly green city, and a young city, about 150 years old, with a young population. We have huge areas of green space,” he said.