Workshop highlights need for improved public spaces

Local authorities need to be made more accountable for poor-quality parks and should be forced to hand over management to external bodies if their green spaces are not up to scratch.

That is the view of TV gardener Chris Beardshaw, who criticised the acceptance of "mediocrity" by some councils during Palmstead Nurseries' soft landscape workshop on public space, which took place on 24 September.

Beardshaw said: "We need to be thinking about the future of our parks in a way that if the local authorities don't have the skills or resources to manage them properly they can be managed by another organisation."

He called for clear design guidance for those involved in public open space. "There is very little point looking at a dwindling pot of money," he added. "We need to be looking at a more wide-ranging review of who should be responsible for managing and maintaining our public parks."

City of Westminster's principal parks and open spaces manager John Tweddle - who is losing two of the council's six parks managers in a move to a strategic commissioning model in a bid to save cash - said one of the key drivers for parks in future would be sustainability.

As well as recycling green waste into parks as compost, Tweddle is looking at a "long-term programme to replace the annual bedding with sustainable planting".

Horticulture Week editor Kate Lowe, who chaired the event, told delegates the "natural response when times are challenging is to stop looking outwards for ideas" but urged people to look to the future. "At times like this it is more important than ever to get out there, network and look for solutions," she said.

The University of Reading's senior lecturer in horticulture Richard Bisgrove also spoke at the event, along with landscape architect Brita von Schoenaich, before delegates toured the nursery with Palmstead chairman John Langman.

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