Best Community Garden 2016

…. has been won by the Marchmont gardeners. Well done to all the volunteers who have kept it looking so great through the seasons.

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Barbirolli tree felled

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Not a good start to the Unlocking Parks pilot. This from Friends of Tavistock Square, sent to Camden officers this morning …

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“Last night our Sir John Barbirolli’s memorial tree was fatally vandalised by persons unknown. This is a direct result of the lack of management and protection of our parks by keeping the gates open. This tree is now gone forever to the detriment of London and in particular Camden. It is time that you reverse this unacceptable and frankly ridiculous decision and start locking the Garden at nights immediately.

By now you have all been informed of our group’s (Friends of Tavistock Square) concerns and objections to the idea of withdrawing locking management to our garden.I also understand that you have been given a commentary of the numbers of rough sleepers and have been informed of the start of drug dealings using the cover of a dark and an open garden since this practice commenced.

Can you please as  a matter of urgency send your park rangers to investigate this mindless act and report it to appropriate authorities, we would be interested to know of your programme for re planting a suitable replacement tree also.”

 

Bloomsbury Squares remain in ‘unlocking parks’ pilot

Russell Square, Bloomsbury Square, St George’s Square, Queen Square, Argyle Square and Marchmont St Garden have all been removed from Camden’s ‘unlocking parks’ pilot, which will run from 30 May to 26 June. But Brunswick Square, Tavistock Square and Regent Square are still included.

Judd St Open Space (still Bramber Green to lots of us) and St Andrew’s Gardens on Grays Inn Rd will also remain in the pilot, though both will receive extra monitoring patrols and will be re-locked immediately if there is any increase in anti-social incidents.

All had been included in the original plans for the pilot, which will see parks and gardens left unlocked all during the night, in a cost-saving trial.

Discussions with police Safer Neighbourhood Teams and parks’ friends groups led to the revised list.  Squares and gardens were excluded if all night opening was judged likely to lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour – with that judgement based mainly on police evidence of actual incidents within and around each park over the past year. However some parks were also taken out if they provided concealed access to neighbouring properties, if they contained children’s play areas that were  known to be frequented by intravenous drug users or – perhaps most tellingly in the case of local sites – if they had “significant historic issues that could be exacerbated by unlocking”.

Brunswick, Tavistock and Regent Square have been categorised as ‘green sites’ meaning  they will remain unlocked during the pilot, and will only receive morning inspections by grounds’ maintenance contractor OCS, who will also record any evidence of ASB.  Any serious hazards found during morning inspections will result in sites being locked again – though the note from Camden doesn’t specify what is meant by “serious”.

We should remember this is a pilot, and it will be essential to have good evidence to review at its end. That depends as much on local residents reporting incidents as relying on the contractors. To report an accident, fault, hazard or anti-social behaviour in any squares during the pilot you can phone Contact Camden on 020 7974 4444.  Serious Incidents of ASB should be reported to the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency or if a crime is taking place.

Last chance to book…

Bloomsbury’s Squares: Pioneering Past, Uncertain Future

The Study Day organised by the Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens, and the Birkbeck Garden History Group is fast approaching. Event is to be held Saturday 7 May 2016  

2016 is a landmark in the story of the Bloomsbury Squares, as they face serious council cuts and explore possible new ways of finance. The Study Day will trace the history of the squares, from their creation as country oases in an urban setting, through their prominent role in the early heritage conservation movement and the postwar opening of many to the public, followed by decline and then reinvigoration at the millennium, to the current situation. The day will include a number of short walks to view individual features of the squares as part of the programme.

Venue: UCL School of Pharmacy, Brunswick Square, London 30)

Booking through Eventbrite https://bloomsburysquaresstudyday.eventbrite.co.uk

Tickets (incl. lunch and refreshments) £32 (BGHG members £30)

ABSG study day 7 May flier (March updated 2) 

With a little help from my friends

… is the title of the talk on offer at this year’s annual meeting of the Friends of St George’s Gardens. The meeting happens on Tuesday April 12th (tomorrow!!) , 7-9pm, at the Lumen Church, Tavistock Place.

Guest speaker is Ken Greenway, from London’s most urban woodland, the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Ken has worked all around the UK on conservation projects and the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park won the prestigious Observer Ethical Wildlife Award in 2015.

 Ken’s passion and interest in plants also led him to learn more about wild food. He is a keen bat enthusiast with a regular slot at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum. Inriguingly the Friends tell MV that his interest in bats was used to winning effect when he starred and won in Come Dine With Me.

Then on Saturday April 23 the Friends will have their regular St George’s Gardens Day Party, from 2-5pm. Music, a juggler, Punch and Judy and tea and cakes all on offer.

Camden to leave parks unlocked

Bloomsbury and Kings Cross parks are to be left unlocked, in a cost-saving trial announced by LB Camden. The trial will take place between 30th May and 26th June, and includes Russell Square, Brunswick Square, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury Square, Queen Square, Regent Square, St George’s Gardens and Marchmont Community Garden.

Parks were left unlocked in a first trial last December, but this second is to see what happens in the better weather of spring and early summer. LB Camden claims that not having to lock parks could save a chunk of the the current grounds maintenance contract, which totals £2.5 million a year – though it hasn’t said how much. The contract comes to an end in March 2017, “presenting a good opportunity to consider ways to reduce costs”, according to the Council notice sent out to tenants’ and residents’ groups last week.

In the first pilot parks were monitored for antisocial behaviour, with the results apparently showing “a lack of any serious incidents”. Monitoring in this second trial is therefore going to be crucial for the long-term management of our local parks – and will depend in large part on the reports made by us, as local residents. If you have any comments that you want to be taken into account before the pilot starts, Camden wants to hear by the 6th May – email to groundsmaintenance@camden.gov.uk.

Bloomsbury Squared and Rooted

A Bloomsbury wide Trust to manage the network of historic squares and green spaces that so characterises our area is in the planning – after local businesses refused to support a proposal to pay a special levy for the upkeep of local greenspace.

The new plans have spun out of Re-thinking Parks, a three year research project  undetaken by think tank NESTA, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in response to anticipated heavy cut backs in local authority funding for parks.

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The research concluded that public parks need to diversify their funding sources to fill the gap created by local authority cuts, find new partners, and look for ways of making cost savings that won’t be at the expense of people’s enjoyment. The ideas from the 11 case studies – spread across the UK – included mobilising the skills and energy of business, using less intensive planting techniques and tapping into the public’s willingness to give both time and money.

The Bloomsbury case study was about setting up a parks-focused Business Improvement District (BID) as a way of raising extra funds. In a BID, local businesses pay a levy for a fixed period of five years, which is then used for local improvements. BIDs are already well known, but none are specifically focused on parks. The proposed Bloomsbury Squared BID was based on a 1.5% business levy on properties with a rateable value of over £60,000, and could have raised over £4m over 5 years.
But when over 300 local firms were surveyed, there was very little appetite for the idea – partly because of the overlap with the existing ‘Midtown’ BID that covers Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles. The idea has now been abandoned – but has led to the organisations involved setting up a working party to llok into the Trust idea. So far the Trust includes reps from LB Camden, the University and community groups – including the Marchmont Association. Businesses have expressed support for specific activities, such as one-off donations and employee volunteering.
Perhaps that was always the most likely outcome – though the problem of finding substantial new income  still remains. With the fortunes of so many local businesses linked to the quality of the local environment, Marchmont Voice wonders whether their reaction was not a tad short-sighted.
Next steps include a forthcoming study day on 7th May, organised by Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens, to trace the history of the squares and look to the future.