The Downs – of course – and the Sea – of course – count; but within the built environment, it is, in practice, private gardens, land between buildings and pavements/roads and parks that provide the smell of grass, trees and earth, the sound of birds and the smell of flowers and cleaner air. Increasingly, planners force people to make do with small balconies in the air and ‘allotments’ on the rooves of towerblocks.
The planning system, at least until the NPPF was enacted, gave parks particular untouchables status. School playing fields too have in recent years been protected from development. Greenfield status has helped but planning policy documentation spelt it out.
Sadly, this does not protect parks being encroached on, built around and declared amenity space for the people who are to live in these ever more dense surrounding buildings.
At Hove Park, we have seen City Park built, and, latterly, consent given for a block of 71 flats for the site of sold-on, left empty for five years, Park House. At the time of writing all has been demolished, trees felled or savagely pollarded with impunity due to past failures on the part of Brighton and Hove City Council to provide policy documentation that would protect Hove Park and what was the extraordinary Hove Park Gardens from slimeball opportunists and professional developers who just seek a way to pad out their profit-lines and bank accounts. This includes a particularly nasty example at the former 19 Goldstone Crescent, where the original old house was renumbered as 10 Hove Park Gardens (and made bigger) and a newbuild horror built on the site of the former garage and lawns area to become the new 19 Goldstone Crescent – right on the edge of the gracious and exceptional Hove Park. Residents close to it have find it intrusive and out of keeping.
To add to the encroachment problem – closest yet – a bilingual govt free school (set up by them, free of council governance or oversight) seeks use of the Hove Park Depot for a large school. An application for use of half the site only and a 3-storey building for 650 pupils was withdrawn in September 2013 following planning dept. recommendation to refuse it. Access over the miniature railway and across the park had been sought within that application. Parental letters of support for it that went to the council either assumed or demanded that the school would use the park as well as the depot site. That would clearly have an impact on public freedom to roam over the same northern reaches of this exceptional park. It would mean accessing the leasehold miniature railway holding which extends the entire length of the upper park area from the Engineerium, down along the edge of the depot and past the electrical sub-station to the Droveway. This use of the depot would bring more than just encroachment issues to Hove Park.