No new parks for Somerset
There seems to be no end to the largesse of the Levelling Up agenda at the moment. Yesterday Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Greg Clark MP, announced another £9m handout. This time for projects to be paid for out of “The Levelling Up Parks Fund”. No we didn’t know there was one either. £2 million of the total investment will support tree planting on the park sites. Obviously this will be a contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and make the air cleaner.
Overall 100 projects have been awarded funding to create or significantly revamp existing parks. There are 100 projects across 85 neighbourhoods. From community gardens to formal greens and town parks, local councils will be able to choose. Each can select the location and the nature of the green space so that it meets the needs of the local community.
All good so far. The 100 projects are spread right around the UK. Well not quite all around the UK. Every single region of England has at least 7 projects. With one exception. To be very parochial, we could observe that not a single project has been selected for Somerset. Perhaps we are considered to have enough green space already? But in regional terms, there isn’t a single project in the whole of the South West. Not even in Bristol or Plymouth.
Interestingly the decision has not been made by judging a series of competitive bids. The Government announcement tells us “Instead of a competitive bidding process, the fund allocates grants to places that the government has identified as most in need of quality green space.” Yorkshire has the Dales, the North West has the Lake District and the South East is “the Garden of England”. Of course the South East is never overlooked anyway when there is money to hand out. So it is not as if the South West is unique in having lots of green space.
You might almost imagine the Government has forgotten how marginal some of those Somerset constituencies used to be.
“The eligibility criteria consider the Indices of Multiple Deprivation and low proximity to green spaces.” Much of the IMDs are based on the 2011 Census, and are due to be updated following a current consultation nationally. However, I’d have thought places like Bridgwater and Taunton would have qualified for community gardens funding.
If it’s based on the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, it’s hard to see how swathes of Bristol, especially south and east, wouldn’t qualify! Or maybe they are judged to have enough good quality green spaces already!?