Saturday, 28 February 2015

Slice up the green areas

Death by a thousand cuts. Always going on in little ways: green areas cut across, cut into; roads and paths widened. We got a few emails about Ceredigion County Council doing it again this week, and saw this letter published in the Cambrian News:
"I hate seeing trees cut and green areas lost so was annoyed to see Ceredigion Council workers digging up green areas near Ysgol Gymraeg. They cut down at least one healthy tree (and then removed the stump/evidence), got rid of the grass and snowdrops and bushes, all apparently to widen one of the FOUR parallel pavements in that area, and to add another unnecessary path cutting across the green area. How come the Council can waste our money for vandalism like that? And they say there’s no money for litter collecting and keeping schools open? It’d be nice if they knocked down their eyesore offices and put a nice park there instead. Scratch that – knowing the council it would become another supermarket."

It's true that at one point of that route there are two roads and 5 paths already, running parallel. It's bizarre that the Council are determined to set one of those paths as dual use (bike and pedestrian) rather than reserving it for bikes and letting the pedestrians use the other routes. Dual-use is for when there’s only one path, and it has to be shared by bikes and pedestrians, not when there's a multitude. Apparently the Council refused to disclose the cost of all this work, and there was no consultation with local cyclists as to whether they'd prefer a cycle-only route (all the cyclists we have spoken to would have preferred that). Nah, the Council want dual use, and are happy to waste money and cut into green areas to enforce that silliness.

Apparently yes, mature trees were lost along with the green spaces and dug up flower banks. The Council claimed they'd plant another tree somewhere to make up for it, but that's small compensation for something that was 40-50 yrs old, cut down for stupid and wasteful reasons. If they really wanted to ameliorate things then how about planting ten trees as compensation, taking up some concrete and creating a new green area somewhere of at least the same square footage as they destroyed? That would be a great policy if they always did that: we’d see green spaces grow, not shrink. Likewise with new planning applications, the Council should enforce green areas and trees as part of every application, to fit in with a nature conservation green area and tourist destination (there's plenty of justifiable reasons for enforcing such a policy).

Oh, and the new, unnecessary cross-cut path? Built "following evidence of demand from pedestrian desire lines seen by worn grass at this location". Ah. So the Council should support and encourage whatever people want? If newly-planted trees are damaged by vandals, then the "desire lines" suggest the Council should stop planting trees, or maybe vandalise them themselves? If people withheld paying Council Tax because they thought the Council were doing a crappy job then the "desire lines" would suggest the Council should let them? Talk of "desire lines" is nonsense. "Desire lines" can just be related to laziness and vandalism, they're not something to act on. The Council only uses that terminology to justify wasteful or damaging actions. If it is policy to concrete every area they appeared in then, yet again, green areas are cut into, criss-crossed with paths, degraded, eventually leading to isolated plots (which is what roads do on a larger scale) which are then seen as "not sufficiently viable" and are at risk of being lost for further roads, paths, widenings, developments, houses, offices, supermarkets... A thousand cuts start with the first.

(Yes, it may seem a lot to say about "a few green areas" - but the policy and practice is widespread, going on every day throughout Ceredigion, Wales, UK, the world; and generally organisations, councils and governments choose not to bother about it).

--- And there's more. We've just been told that this is out of date and the Council are cutting into other green areas. This time the section from the Leisure Centre. There were two parallel paths, right next to each other, no gap, for cycles and pedestrians - and the Council has decided to cut into the green area there as well. Two paths! Not enough! Must waste more money! 
The Council want to cut services and schools, saying there's not enough money. I wonder where all the money went? 
Oh yes, I remember now. Unnecessary paths.
As usual, the county council ignored our email on this subject. They obviously don't like listening to people in Ceredigion.

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