Wednesday 9 November 2011

Park Life

One Barnet teddy bears' picnic in Scratchwoods (names redacted under section 40(2)FOIA, for data protection purposes - oh, hold on: can I do that? Am I registered as a data controller, Mr Lustig? What? Freedom of expression? Human Rights Act? Doesn't apply in Broken Barnet, does it? It does. Goodness me. Yes: I do have a cat. )

Updates 1 and 2 below:

So, anyway: you are a One Barnet high priest, and the gods of commerce have demanded another sacrifice, their appetites unsated by all the offerings already made, the services being laid out for the vultures, entrails spilling everywhere, ready for divination by the prophets of doom/Barnet bloggers, the council properties cut free of community ties and given up as gifts to the property developers ... what is left to satisfy the immortal tyrants lying in their lair, roaring for food?

All that is left in Broken Barnet are the elemental forces: earth, wind, water and fire. Councillor Coleman, wearing his GLA top hat, has already dealt with most of the fire service. Only the Museum to get rid of now, yes why not: as he says, seen one helmet, seen them all.

Water? Well, Dollis Brook has been bought up by Mayor Boris Johnson for a photo opportunity in April.

Wind? The wind that blows through Broken Barnet is soon to be tainted by the outpourings of the Pinkham Way waste plant ... so all that is left are a few undeveloped patches of scorched earth, scattered here and there about our beloved borough.

Let's sell off our parks, then.

Oh: we can't, entirely , as we need to retain them, according to Councillor Tom Davey, as the only suitable subsidised venue for poor people to have their half an hour of free weekly leisure in, in between all that voluntary work they need to undertake in order to score enough points to get on his new approved list, for what will now only be temporary accommodation in social housing.

Never mind. Oh: can we charge the poor for walking or jogging in the park? No, damn it: apparently not. These scroungers always want something for free, don't they?

Ah, but: here is a brilliant idea - we can't sell our parks to someone else, but in traditional One Barnet fashion, we can pimp them out to anyone who fancies a bit of fun. A twenty first century pleasure garden, for al fresco celebrations, public events and private functions.

What, exactly, will happen when we are expected to hire out our parks to these events? Will they be closed to residents? If not, what about the risk to er stakeholders like, oh, children who want to play football, or you know, be children in a park? And why are park keepers losing their jobs: won't we need even more now?

In fact, Mrs Angry understands that although events will be in a defined area within the greenspaces, a certain Tory councillor, overcome with enthusiasm for outdoor activities, wanted the parks to close entirely when hired out in this way. Yes: tell your little girl to stop sobbing, madam: the swings are off limits today: look, there is a corporate celebration for former employees of the London Borough of Broken Barnet now working at BT. Hard to find a park big enough, as it happens.

Mrs Angry calls upon all residents' associations and Friends of Open Spaces, Parks and so on to oppose this shameful commercialisation of our greenspaces. She imagines there are plenty of grounds (ha) for doing so: have there been full equalities impact assessments? Studies of the potential environmental impact? Are there not restrictive covenants on the use of some of these parks for such events? Oh look: a flurry of activity has suddenly erupted in the legal department of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, which will require an afternoon's respite from trying to report bloggers to the ICO for daring to assert the right to freedom of expression, won't it?

Well: a new policy document has helpfully been compiled to inform residents of the marvellous new opportunity for their local environmental access outdoor leisure facility (park), at the same time as notice dressed up as 'consultation' has been sent to those living near the parks and greenspaces in question. Again, in One Barnet tradition, the decision has already been made, so any pretence at consultation is just that: pretence, and nothing more.

Let's see:

"2.3 Private event: An event such as a wedding or private party. In general Private events are
anticipated to have an attendance of up to 499 persons, though depending on location and event
requirements this could be lower. Events that require higher attendance will be considered though would be subject to a Temporary Events Notice (TEN). The following parks have been indentified as pilot sites for private events:

1) Highland Gardens (EN5)
2) Victoria Park (N2)
3) Hendon Park (NW4)
4) Scratchwood (NW7)
5) Edgwarebury Park (HA8)
6) Oak Hill Park (EN4)
7) Lyttleton Playing Fields (N2)
8) Princes Park (NW11)"

You will note that Mrs Angry's local park, Victoria Park, has the wrong postcode, by the way.

And look, can you see, Mrs Angry is beside herself with amusement at the thought of all those wedding parties who will wish to make use of the Scratchwood Open Space for their celebrations.

When Mrs Angry was a little girl, she and her brother used to be taken on bracing walks in their wellies in these ancient woods, to run about, collecting conkers and throwing leaves in innocent fun. These days, sadly, instead of conkers, the ground is scattered with used condoms: Scratchwoods is the dogging capital of Broken Barnet, and unless the bride and groom have a particularly open mind about the theme for their reception, they might be in for something of a shock.*Update: see below ...

Like the Blur song goes:

Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as (parklife)

A morning suit can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as (parklife) John's got brewers droop he gets intimidated by the dirty pigeons they love a bit of it (parklife)

Who's that gut lord marching... you should cut down on your porklife mate... get some exercise
(chorus) All the people So many people They all go hand in hand Hand in hand through their parklife



Here is an amusing story from the 'Between the lines' column of the local Times paper, 21st September, 2006:

Dogged by worries over green space

"Following Councillor Brian Coleman's visit to well-known dogging location Scratchwood, Between the Lines was intrigued to hear that fellow Conservative councillor Brian Gordon was offering guided tours of the car park, just off the A1 near Stirling Corner, to fellow Barnet Council members.

Dogging, for those not in the know, is the practice of watching strangers have sex in public places, or even participating themselves. Speaking at a council meeting last week, Mr Gordon said: "If any members of the council who have not visited Scratchwood or Moat Mount before would like to pay a visit, my colleagues and I would be very happy to take them on a guided tour."

He helpfully gave his colleagues the address of a popular website used by doggers to arrange meetings', which apparently highlights Scratchwood and Moat Mount as ideal dogging locations.

Should we anticipate a political scandal looming on the horizon? Alas, the offer was made as part of a council motion urging protection of the environment and the safeguarding of Barnet's open and green spaces.

Still, should any councillors wish to take Mr Gordon up on his offer, Between the Lines would be only too happy to accompany them on their visit and report back."

Mrs Angry would love to hear from any councillors who have been to Scratchwood recently, on official fact finding business, or indeed simply for a nice long walk in the fresh air.

*Update 2:

Mrs Angry has been offered a legal opinion on this new venture, based on the council's own byelaws, and which offers an interesting possible challenge to this assault on our greenspaces:

"There appear to be 2 instances where part of the park can be set aside for a specific use - for games (16,17) or maintenance (21).

There is no power to exclude people for other purposes. If they have not given themselves the power it is ultra vires, ie unlawful.

The council can grant a licence for things like marquees or fetes, but there is no power to exclude people from walking round these, except under other statutory provisions (stuff like health & safety, so you may not be allowed close to engines of fairground rides).

So people can have weddings and bar mitzvahs, but we are all invited."


baarnett said...

I see Brian's Friary Park is being kept clear of private events, making his Friern Barnet Summer Show SO much easier to organise.

Mrs Angry said...

I am sure that is an extraordinary coincidence, baarnett.

Mr Mustard said...

Is that the same Scratchwood that Barnet Council used to close for 2 days ( at least from 2007 to 2009 ) so that members of the Iranian community couldn't have a picnic in them to celebrate their new year.

Welcome to Broken Barnet.

Mrs Angry said...

It is indeed, Mr Mustard: an Iranian friend of Mrs Angry was very upset by this, as it happens.

baarnett said...

Does that mean it is unlawful to block entrances to Victoria Park and Friary Park, and charge for merely going through the gate (as happens)?

Mrs Angry said...

I don't know about Friary Park, but when there is a funfair in Victoria Park there is sometimes free access and at other times not. Perhaps it depends on who authorised the funfair.