Opinion: Norwich's green spaces are not green enough
PUBLISHED: 14:00 22 February 2017
THE NORWICH SOCIETY
In May last year, the Civic Environment Committee of The Norwich Society surveyed 32 "small green spaces" within the inner ring road with a view towards recommending action to tidy, or even transform them, into an attractive asset for the citizens of Norwich.
They looked at them again in September, found there was little or no change, and last month published their annual Environmental Audit which concluded: “Our overwhelming impression was that most of the spaces we looked at suffered from a lack of maintenance and could contribute so much more to our cityscape with more regular care and attention.”
Archant, the publishers of this newspaper, to their credit took the criticism on board and undertook to take more care of the beds in front of Prospect House on Golden Ball Street.
The Norwich Society’s Audit of Small Green Spaces received widespread and justified praise for its thoroughness. Its only limitation was that it was confined to the area within the city walls. Norwich City Council’s boundaries extend well beyond, and there are many more small green spaces in need of attention.
At first glance, you would not categorise the area in front of the Chinese restaurant and Co-op store on the corner of Unthank Road and Bury Street as “green”. That seems to be the one colour missing from the graffiti artists’ pallet, but many years ago a tree stump was surrounded by decorative brickwork and filled in with earth and plants. Concrete bollards were erected to stop vehicles parking in the area, although the one on its side may point to a failure in that respect, as would the gaping fracture in the brickwork.
This particular small green space looks more like a bomb-site. Graffiti on the rubbish bin, the post box and the tatty door of the undecorated former shop used as a store for the “Caring, Sharing Co-op”; weeds growing in the badly damaged central feature; a broken concrete bollard lying flat on the ground; stickers all over the pole of a street sign; and two bedraggled, uncared-for telephone kiosks. There is nothing Golden about this Triangle.
Several agencies have turned their backs on this eyesore, and it would appear that the locals cast a blind eye to it as they go about their business, and commute, on this busy street corner.
While the City Council choose to exercise their extensive powers in other areas – parking and driving violations, planning applications, health and safety strictures etc – they have no regard for the visual environment of its citizens in many parts of the city.
It would be naïve to expect the cash-strapped council to devote their diminishing resources to sorting this out, and several other eyesores - so what can be done? Perhaps the solution lies in the hands of some public-spirited locals, taking it upon themselves to tidy up and repair areas like this. The council could give them advice and materials, lend them tools, and then leave them alone to get on with the work, unhindered by Risk Assessments, Heath & Safety Manuals and the hundred-and-one bureaucratic obstacles to progress.
It’s happening already in other parts of the city. Members of The Norwich Society have come together to tidy up the flower beds on the forecourt of Thorpe Station, and the same group now take care of the beds on either side of the main entrance to City Hall.
That, more than anything else, illustrates the reality, and scale of the problem – the council can’t even find the resources to sort out their own front garden.
The Norwich Society’s Audit of Small Green Spaces concludes: “There is a growing movement of community gardening in the UK and Norwich is no exception. There are examples of volunteer groups taking on local areas and working to improve and enhance them. The City Council and other local organisations have been playing a part in supporting and encouraging volunteer effort. There are benefits for both the environment – and for volunteers.”
Encouraging words, but as the not-so-Golden Triangle illustrates, there is an awful lot more to be done to put the fine into many small green areas of this Fine City.