‘Tripadvisor’ ratings website for parks could reduce dog fouling and graffiti, says think tank

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Synopsis

Report says ‘MarkMyPark’ website that maps and rates our urban green spaces could help improve our city parks.

A new ‘Tripadvisor’ style ratings website that encourages people to rate green spaces for crime, littering and dog fouling could dramatically improve the quality and cleanliness of local parks and other urban green spaces.

A Policy Exchange report, Park Land, warns that the budgetary pressures could have a major impact on the quantity and quality of our urban green spaces. Financial constraints have led to local authorities in towns and cities across England reducing the amount of money they spend on parks and other green spaces. The cuts were felt most deeply in the North East with councils cutting the amount they spend on green spaces by almost 40% over the past three years. This compares to just a 3.4% reduction in spending in the South East.

The paper urges the government to establish a freely-available national urban green space map for the UK. A new online map which will crowd-source information from government, local authorities, NGOs and local communities, would allow the public to easily comment on the state of their local park and other green spaces. People would be able to use their smart phones to upload pictures of graffiti, vandalism, dog fouling and disrepair. They would also be able to compare ratings with other parks, access information on opening times, facilities and events. The map would help encourage existing and new volunteer and community groups to improve the quality of their parks when councils or others have failed to act.

The map would also help make sure people living in cities have adequate access to good green spaces, that public money was being well spent and that clever innovations in improving green spaces could be easily shared. The report found that current publically available green space maps are woefully inadequate. For example, in the City of Westminster alone they underestimate the amount of urban green space by approximately 40%. The new website would be also allow people to include green spaces that official sources miss.

The report highlights the success of the free ‘Love Lewisham’ app which allows the public to photograph graffiti or fly-tipped waste and immediately report it to the council. Within two years the number of complaints about graffiti had fallen by almost a third.

Katherine Drayson, author of the report, said, “Flourishing parks and green spaces are central to the success of our cities. They are places to exercise, to socialise and to relax. They also support our wildlife, clean our air, reduce flooding and even cool our cities down. Yet we’ve all gone for a walk in our local park only to find used needles, dog excrement and litter ruining our beautiful green spaces.

“A ‘Markmypark’ website would allow the public and councils to work together to tackle much of the anti-social behaviour that blights our parks.”

Hilary Allison, Policy Director of the Woodland Trust said,

“Urban green space matters. It is a serious quality of life issue that has been neglected for too long. There is an ever growing body of evidence showing the link between public health and ability to access green spaces such as woodland. Yet at present only 15% of people have a woodland within walking distance of where they live.”

Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said:

“Only one in five children are really in touch with the natural world. Part of the problem is that our urban green spaces are disappearing or being closed off from communities. Auditing the extent of green space and our access to it is a vital first step in reconnecting people with nature—and what better way to do it than to combine the wonders of smart technology with the wonders of nature? That way, people can personally put a pin on the map for the natural corners that bring a flash of brilliant green to the grind of city life”

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind commented,

“Mind recognises the importance of having vibrant green spaces that are publicly accessible. There is strong evidence of the role that access to green spaces can play in preserving good mental health and wellbeing. Therefore any tool or initiative that allows people, and local public health teams in particular, to openly access information about these vital green spaces is very welcome.”

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  • park land thumbnail.jpgPark Land: How open data can improve our urban green spaces

    19 November 2013

    Britain's urban green spaces are coming under pressure, with financial and development constraints, coupled with a surprising lack of data, raising the possibility of a decline in the quantity and quality of our urban green spaces. Park Land calls for a new freely-available national urban green space map for the UK to help make sure people living in cities have adequate access to good green spaces, test whether public money is being well spent and allow clever innovations in improving green spaces to be easily shared.

News Source : ‘Tripadvisor’ ratings website for parks could reduce dog fouling and graffiti, says think tank

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