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Contributed by Dr Angela Drakakis-Smith

 Parks appear to be on the mind of the Newcastle Borough Council (NBC) of late.  The Queen’s Gardens and the Queen Elizabeth Gardens  were due for a makeover, as were the Brampton and Thistleberry Parkway – the latter being not so much a park as a landscaped walkway.  Plans and applications for funding were made for the first two and plans are currently being drawn up for Thistleberry Parkway.

Whilst it is important that parks and parkland are maintained to a high standard by local authorities, and the NBC seem to have succeeded in this so far, there is a difference between a park and a funfair.  This issue needs some debate.  For example should a park provide every possible amenity that the heart might desire – seats, lighting, picnic tables, green gyms, sculpture parks, ice cream stands and public lavatories to name a few?  Or should they be aesthetically pleasing green backdrops in which people can freely create their own leisure activity and exercise their minds and bodies?  If people want to sit in the park then there is nothing to stop them bringing their own blanket or folding chair.   Whilst formal seating is fixed the blanket and chair can be moved to follow the sun/shade.  Both can be folded up at the end and taken home (along with the litter) with no harm being done to the landscape.  Are these the parks of the future – where people start to take some responsibility for their leisure rather than have this dictated to them by the powers that be?

Unfortunately, neither the Queen’s nor Queen Elizabeth Gardens were successful in attracting funding to their applications.  Both plans appeared overly fussy and wanting to fill any available space with ‘things’.  Fancy entrances and railings appear to be de rigueur at the moment! Sometimes less can be more.  Unfortunately, too, it seems, that residents were called in at the last minute to support these applications.  Possibly another reason for their failure.  Indeed, those applying for funding appear to be out of touch with the requirements of the funders.  These applications have gone back to the drawing board and the Civic Society have asked to be more involved with the process.

In the meantime the Thistleberry Parkway is being threatened with ‘things’.  The play areas has already been established and although it is unusable during wet weather, – the area floods – the children seem to enjoy it. Residents did warn against this flooding, no-one heard!  And these are expensive mistakes.

So where are we at with the Borough Council’s parks?  Do the NBC actually know what people want/need/would like from a park?  Should we find out before plans are even on the drawing board?  The Civic Society would welcome your ideas, so step out and step forward.  We are all ears! 

A planning application has just been submitted to the NBC for  the Castle Motte within the Queen Elizabeth Gardens This will entail the construction of a viewing platform and information boards, the removal of trees from the mound and new entrance gates and mounds. This is a somewhat sensitive application since the motte is a listed site.  Also there are protected species of fauna and trees.  An added complication is the removal of trees rooted in the earth which is the motte. If these are removed, what remains of the original motte?

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