Since 2006 Our Ground has reported on
the disposal and sales of public open green space across Merseyside. This
reflects a national phenomena: the loss of our human right to freely use
open space through privatisation schemes for a variety of commercial developments.
Local authorities encouraged by successive UK governments have continued
to sell-off our parks, open space and public rights of way in towns and
cities throughout Britain. more
On 4 July the Independent Panel on Forestry
published its Final Report
The final report makes clear that the English public forest
estate is a national asset, which should remain in public ownership.
The report calls for woods and forests to be re-valued for all the benefits
they provide. These include areas for recreation, clean air, clean water,
and habitats for wildlife. The report calls for a revival of a woodland
culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature
and the economy.
Hopefully the Coalition Government and the Secretary of State will fully
support the report's recommendations.
Liverpool Festival Gardens opened on 23
June but at what cost?
Liverpool International Garden Festival opening in 1984 - anon.
Preview of the Festival Gardens for local residents on 28 April
After 28 years the Festival Gardens in Liverpool is now open to the public.
The Gardens officially opened on Saturday 23 June and is open every day
from 8:30am to 7:00pm - until further notice.
The car park will be open at the same times as the Gardens. The smoking
ban in the park has been lifted but smoking areas may be restricted -
methane gas is a factor. The entire Festival Gardens site is now a private
estate leased to Langtree plc and along with the Land Trust they may change
opening times for public access.
The hidden cost for the completion of the Gardens can now take it's toll
on and around the Festival site. As part of the planning deal with Liverpool
City Council, Langtree are now in a position to build over 1300 (1 and
2 bed) apartments next to the Gardens. Plus a row of 7 large finger-blocks
running along and on top of the public open green space of Otterspool
Promenade. To quote the 2008 Public Inquiry Report
into Langtree's development: 'The effect of the proposed scheme on
the character and appearance of the whole promenade would be harmful'.
The Promenade's quality as a tranquil waterfront public amenity is freely
available only until building work commences.
Trust, who are managing the gardens, are directly employing people
to care for the park. They are also looking for volunteers in both conservation
and horticulture as well as site promotion and events management.
The Grant Funding Agreement for the garden works was between Langtree
and the, now defunct, NWDA. The Homes and Communities Agency has now taken
over responsibility from NWDA for enforcing the terms of the agreement:
Phase 1 Garden Works (£3.138m) - 31 March 2011 - revised to
Community Works (£0.020m) - 31 March 2013 - revised
Maintenance Works (£0.568m) - 31 March 2016 - revised
Guardian's survey to map 'Privately
owned public space'
This June the Guardian's Newspaper Datablog have launched
a call for people to help create a map of public spaces in Britain so
we can see how much land is under corporate control. Our Ground
welcomes the initiative as this is the first attempt to create a centralised
resource of freely available information regarding the disposal, privatisation
and disappearance of public open space.
Maintenance of Liverpool's neighbourhood
parks under threat - except for Sefton and Stanley Parks
Funding cuts for the maintenance of community/neighbourhood
parks are being considered by Liverpool City Council.
and Climate Change Select Committee "regrets that this administration
do not value our Green Flag accredited parks as much as our local residents
do, and Committee calls upon the administration to look at ways of being
able to reapply for Green Flag status for all 18 parks in January 2013
before the Council takes this backward step". LCC did not resubmit
Green Flag applications for their 18 accredited parks therefore they will
lose their Green Flag status in 2013/14.
Those parks which have benefited from external grant funding agreements
will be maintained. Sefton Park and Stanley Park will be re-submitted
for Green Flag Awards in 2012.
In respect of Sefton Park's £4,734,000 Heritage Lottery restoration
funding, there is a contractual arrangement for the council to adhere
to a 10 year maintenance and management plan - the contract is actually
binding for 25 years from 30th November 2006 in respect of sales of park
The restoration of Stanley Park between 2007 and 2009 was set in the context
of the New Anfield Regeneration Project which involves Liverpool Football
Club's proposed move to Stanley Park. The project involved a £23
Million programme of activity involving the restoration of Stanley Park,
the Gladstone Conservatory and various highway and infrastructure works
around the Park. European Regional development Fund of £9
Million was secured to contribute to this cost with the balance provided
in the main by LFC.
more details on this item and agreements with LFC for Stanley
Park here from LCC's
Funding confirmed for new Port Sunlight
Directly across the River Mersey from Liverpool's Festival
Gardens is another former landfill site: the Bromborough Landfill Site
will be turned into the renamed 'Port Sunlight River Park'. In March it
was confirmed that £2.2m will be made available via the Newlands
programme so that work can begin on the creation of a new tourist attraction
for the Wirral.
Over the next 3 years Development partners - including Biffa Waste, The
Land Trust, BIS (formally NWDA), The Forestry Commission, Wirral Council
and Port Sunlight Village Trust - plan to develop a community woodland,
open space and the creation of a major new waterfront visitor attraction
on the 28 hectare site.
Occupy Movement in Liverpool &
public rights to freely access open space have been given away
Occupy London encampment
from the steps of St.Paul's Cathedral, February 2012
Whatever you may think of the Occupy Movement one thing
that Occupy London has brought to public attention is the extent of privately
owned and commercially controlled land throughout the City. This is a
legacy of Thatcher's hidden Britain and the hidden consequences of social
control when public open space and highways are sold - this cultural legacy
is now widely accepted by planning authorities. Since the 1980's throughout
the UK many ancient rights of way, public roads and footpaths, parks,
civic open spaces, woods and forests are now privately owned. The sales
and transfers of public 'common' land is largely hidden from public view
and most of us don't realise our rights to freely access open space is
also given away with these sales.
In the UK as in the rest of the European Community private land owners
are not required to provide any justification for removing anyone they
don't want on their property. The public have no legal right of access
to nearly all of the shopping centres, malls or other private estates
and private highways in Britain. As long as we are abiding consumers we
are welcome. But our legitimate human right to freely use, demonstrate
or protest in many of our urban centres has been given away to property
owners by our local authorities.
One of the biggest benefactors and landowners in London's financial district
of the 'City' is also the same owner of the Liverpool One Estate. This
includes Chavasse Park controlled by Grosvenor Estates and is where the
Occupy Liverpool group camped - not realising this park is now the private
property of the Duke of Westminster. After the camp tents were fenced-in
or 'kettled' with metal barriers and surrounded by security guards Occupy
Liverpool decided to move on.
Occupy Liverpool have moved to various locations within central Liverpool
and on the 1st March they were camped at Exchange Flags a large paved
area of public open space at the back of the Town Hall. After one day
on the site they were asked to move. Local magistrates were told that
the tents were a risk to public safety by the Council's highways manager.
But the real reason was that the Occupy Liverpool camp would be in the
way and a distraction to the scheduled parade ceremony by the crew of
HMS Liverpool on the following day.
But all British roads lead to London and St Paul's Cathedral - the epicenter
of, amongst other things, the 'A' road route system. On a section of pavement
near the steps of the Cathedral the London Occupy Movement found a place
to protest establishing an encampment for over four winter months. After
various legal moves to remove the camp the landlord, the City of London,
took London Occupy to the High Court who decided that the right of people
to use this public highway over-ruled the right of people to protest in
the same space. On the 28th February the protest camp were evicted from
this civic space and also from the Cathedral land with the blessing of
the Church of England.
It was on the 15th October 2011 that Occupy London first wanted to demonstrate
outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square - only to be told
by police to keep off the Square as it was private land (acquired from
the Church). Apart from the paved area outside London's Anglican Cathedral
there is little public open space to speak of in this part of the City
- the nearest area of accessible public open space is about a mile away
in Finsbury Square and this is where some of the protesters have moved
Festival Gardens - Langtree's
Disaster strikes the Festival Gardens Park development
once again with the unfortunate collapse of Groundwork Merseyside on the
30th January. Groundwork were appointed managing agents for the park by
the Land Trust, the Trust teamed up with Langtree in 2006 to take ownership
of the Gardens when restoration is complete. If the Langtree Group plc,
the multi-million pound financiers, property developers and current landowner
of the site, had managed to deliver its promise to open the park to the
public in spring 2011 then Groundwork might have been in a different position
As soon as the park is open to the public then Langtree can start to make
advance sales on its Festival Gardens properties. On completion of the
works and the approval of the underlying methane gas management strategy
(LCC is responsible for the gas system on this former landfill site) the
lease of the gardens to the Land Trust and the development site to Langtree
will be completed.
During the Public Enquiry in 2007-8 Langtree presented detailed plans,
drawn up by Planit, to create a new park as part of a deal for their property
development on the site to be wholly funded by them and to provide a £2m
dowry for ongoing maintenance of the park. However, the enquiry inspector
imposed a planning condition agreed by the Secretary of State that Langtree
complete and open the park before any properties can be sold.
An economic downturn and the bankruptcy of Langtree's partner Mclean looked
like the development might not go ahead. But in 2009 a £3.7m
park restoration and maintenance grant was awarded to Langtree through
the now defunct NWDA to develop a private but publicly accessible park.
Mayfield was appointed by Langtree to build a new park to Planit's designs.
By February 2011 Langtree and it's park partners the Land Trust were advising
and Climate Change Select Committee that the park would be open ahead
of schedule later that spring. But on the 8 July 2011 Mayfield unfortunately
went into liquidation leaving park work incomplete.
On 22 Dec 2011 Langtree
published a press release blaming delays for finishing the park on
it's contractors Mayfield for sub-standard work even though Langtree's
design and management team were on site overseeing all works. Tolent are
now completing the works.
The recent history of Langtree's plans and deals to build a 'village'
at the heart of the Festival Gardens is detailed and complicated. Our
Ground can only offer a brief glimpse of this unfolding story and
of the City Council's support for plans to build 1,308 compact dwellings
on stilts on top of an unregulated landfill site plus 66 luxury 'townhouses'
in a row of 7 finger-blocks (up to 8 stories high) along and over the
public open green space of Otterspool Promenade - including public
land the Council has agreed to give to Langtree. If the City of Liverpool
had any policy for building sustainable family homes then there may have
been a different outcome for permissions to build these 936 - 2 bed and
372 - 1 bed apartments.
The reason for Liverpool's rush of enthusiasm to support Langtree's Festival
Gardens development is because for many years the Council have regarded
the site as an eye-sore on the southern gateway to the city. The Festival
site also represents an embarrassing badly drawn out land lease agreement
- where the site owner's lack of maintenance and dereliction of responsibility
could not be legally challenged by the freeholder Liverpool City Council.
'Big Society' Localism Act made law in
This radically new Localism
Act will change the way local planning authorities can operate and
establishes powerful new rights for local people and communities to hold
their local authorities to account. It's early days yet and how this Act
will work in practice remains to be seen.
The Bill will enable regional planning to be swept away and in its place
neighbourhood plans will become the new building blocks of the planning
system where communities have the power to grant planning permission if
a local majority are in favour.
Effectively this act was born out of the European
Landscape Convention - signed up to by the last Labour government
in 2008. Our Ground welcomes the benefits of these new rights
to local communities in helping to protect and shape their public open
Land Trust call for land-owning organisations
to help Big Society
The Land Trust believe communities across the country are
crying out for more public green spaces that can act as an outdoor escape,
improving the neighbourhood's well-being and boosting the local economy.
The Land Trust is urging organisations to make their non-core land available
to local communities by creating open public spaces that can be enjoyed
by all, whilst increasing profitability for the landowner. Through this
scheme the Trust is utilising the benefits of the Localism
here for more Land Trust details
The Trust supports last October's parliamentary report calling for non-core
Government land to be developed for the greater good of a Big Society
but stresses its recommendations must go further so that land must be
transferred with the means to sustain long term development and so that
local communities can benefit from the regeneration of sites.
more on this Land Trust item
They giveth and they taketh away
In Britain local planning authorities can sell-off the
public land we collectively own and are only required to publicise these
disposals by placing a small advertisement in a local newspaper. There
is currently no centralised resource of freely available information regarding
the disposal, sale and privatisation of public open space. It is incredible
that notices are not required to be placed in or by the actual public
open spaces to be privatised.
If regular users of these spaces were informed of proposed disposals they
would be able to act on the potential loss of their right to use public
land. By the time the public is aware that public open space is to be
commercially developed it is often too late to effectively object as lawful
planning permission has already been consented. Hopefully the new Localism
Act may be seen as a way of correcting these faults in the planning
Most all privatisation schemes attract little interest in the press and
media as public open space and park land gradually disappear over extended
periods of time or usage changes in subtle ways. In rare circumstances
a planning application is 'called in' for a Public or Local Enquiry but
these are often balanced in favour of the commercial developer who have
the financial resources to employ skilled legal expertise in these matters.
During 2010 different central government departments had
conflicting views over the value of public open green space. Some encourage
local councils to sell off public land where others see the same public
open space as an essential part of the urban infrastructure for a wide
range of environmental, social and economic objectives and activities.
The catalyst for the Our Ground project was the privatisation
of the public open space of Chavasse Park and 34 adjoining streets for
the 'Liverpool One' extensive retail and mixed use development. The developer,
Grosvenor Estates, effectively owning 42.5 acres of central Liverpool
with a 250 year lease.