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SUPPORTING RANGERS

10-02-2010

Claims that Birmingham’s parks will soon run short of wardens and rangers and might even fail to meet their legal obligations have been extensively chronicled on The Stirrer. In an open letter, Simon Baddeley considers the effects on his own green refuge in Handsworth.

Dear Councillors and friends,

These proposed changes to the management of Birmingham’s treasured parks – in particular Handsworth Park - are very troubling, especially as they include reduction in the Ranger Services.

As someone involved in writing the History of Handsworth Park and, with many others, campaigning for its restoration since the 1980s, I learned a lot about the contribution of parks to city life – especially their indirect contribution to health and education and the resulting contribution to community safety.

It did not take long for my researches to catch up with something that the public has long known, that you cannot realise the public good of parks without park keepers – now the Ranger Service.

Crime, like fire, prevented is very difficult to measure, thus the peacekeeping role of the Rangers in all our parks cannot, in a time of desperate purse tightening, be accurately assessed against the cost to the city of their wages.

That failure in accounting practice will bear very directly on all who have come to enjoy what for the last 10 years has seen a renaissance in public parks.

As an almost daily visitor to Handsworth park before and after the rangers arrived about ten years ago I, and others in my position, can attest to the 1001 incidents that might have gone from petty to serious which have been nipped in the bud merely by the presence of a ranger patrolling, let alone their many direct interventions that have prevented crimes in the park.

In addition, our Rangers, in liaison with teachers, local police and community support officers, have participated in a whole range of actions with schools designed to catch potential problems long before they become those that once allowed our public parks to deteriorate into spaces from which the larger public – young and old - were barred by crime and anti-social behaviour.

We hope very much that local councillors and our MPs will be able to come together to press for damage limitation, especially as it was understood as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the restoration of Handsworth Park that revenue for its continued maintenance and staffing was guaranteed for at least 10 years from the time of the grant.

There are still a few years to run

By cutting back on services especially the ranger service in Handsworth Park the Birmingham City Council may be acting contrary to its agreement with the Heritage Lottery Fund. Can councillors please make urgent enquiries this and make appropriate representations.

I would also appreciate knowing whether we must anticipate any collateral impact on the opening and managing of the new Victoria Jubilee Allotments next to Handsworth Park.

Best wishes

Simon Baddeley
Handsworth Allotments Information Group (HAIG)

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