This week, it's Southwark Council's turn. I've been notified by the Friends of Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park (GMHP) that Southwark plan to remove the full-time Park Ranger/Gardener service from the GMH Park and replace it with a rotating part-time team. The Friends of GMHP are holding a public meeting on 28th March (7pm-9pm) at St Jude's Community Association, The Crypt, St George's Road, London, SE1 6EZ at which they will ask Southwark Council to be answerable to the community about how the park will be run in the absence of the Ranger Service.
The Friends' group have also written to Southwark to advise them on the following points:
- Based on an updated estimate from a 2002 Mori poll, it's likely that in excess of 2.5 million people use the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park each year. This is likely to be increased in 2012 due to the Olympic Games.
- The park is only 5.9 hectares in size. This makes the footfall it receives per person per hectare comparable to St James' Park. Given the intense pressures upon it, it needs constant care rather than seasonal attention. Maintenance at a lower lever will have a negative impact on overseas visitors to the Imperial War Museum.
- The Ranger Gardeners deal politely and sensitively on a daily basis with 5-10 rough sleepers (and their bedding and excrement) and ensure that the playground is free from unsavoury characters. In the past, the Parks Liaison Officers have not demonstrated effective interpersonal skills in this regard, and they'd be shared with 2 other parks, which (in view of the size of GMHP) would likely negatively impact the other parks
- The presence of Rangers at different times of the day has reduced vandalism, increased security and nearly eliminated drug-dealing. Ocacsional patrols would not provide a continued presence capable of maintaining the character of the park.
- The plans that Southwark Council have presented do not make savings at higher grades. New proposals introduce a Director position which cuts the budget for Ranger/Gardeners (who are good value for money). Southwark's plans may benefit larger parks, but the GMHP would lose out.