Parks Are Public: That Means Everyone
Two years ago new control orders were introduced in the UK aimed at removing ‘anti-social disorder’ from public spaces. Under the so-called ‘Busybodies Charter’ dogs have been banned from at least 2,205 public places along with cycling, gatherings, fitness trainers and other groups using the open spaces. And this week, councils are trying to swipe chunks off the city’s oldest allotments.
I’ve visited quite a few parks around the world and can say the the gentlest, most peaceful ones I’ve strolled in have been in the Arab world and in Japan, the rowdiest and most wonderfully joyous are in Latin countries and the most beautiful – and miserable – are in England.
English parks are monitored by cash-hungry councils and the unofficial biddy brigade who have forgotten what it’s like to be young. This issue came up again and again as I was researched the next Bryant & May hardback, ‘Wild Chamber’. How should we best care for parkland?
Children who sing, dance, jump, climb, skate or cycle in parks are treated shockingly. If you live in a tiny flat and have a child, you should be able to throw a birthday party in a park. Grass is for walking on – it grows back. Flowers are not for picking and there should be quiet contemplative areas set aside for those who want peace. It’s not rocket science.
Why do we have such a strange attitude to parks? The enclosure Acts started in the 12th century, and enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. They have been protected ever since, either by the Crown or government, and thence councils.
Which is where the problem comes in. Councils operate differently to each other. Several have attempted to push through outrageous legislation involving parks, including charging companies for having good office views of greenery and provided areas for private business functions. Yet they’ll happily remove sunlight by approving the building of office extensions that overlook greenery.
I would open parks wide. We’re already banned from riding airwheels and other pollution-free devices in the UK. If park laws were less draconian we’d encourage more fresh air and exercise. Instead councils continue to grant endless liquor licenses that create anti-social areas.
That’s the back-story to the new novel. Of course, I try not to let such points get in the way of a good story.
Where will we go in post-Brexit times, when the need to raise cash becomes paramount? That’s for the Peculiar Crimes Unit spin-off I’m planning for…well, let’s not discuss that quite yet!