A few days ago, we published this piece about a list of ‘potential’ development sites that officers at Thurrock Council had drawn up: ‘Just a list’…a total screw up more like it! A number of these sites were in fact, open spaces and pocket parks. Suffice to say that when residents found that open spaces near them had been included on this list, they were rightly up in arms.

The good news is that it looks as though opposition councillors are uniting to fight the threat to our green spaces posed by a council that you can be forgiven for thinking, is in the pocket of the housing developers: Opposition united in fight to stop possible development on open spaces. What we would like to say at this point is that we hope this is genuine unity and that councillors don’t start playing party politics with this issue. Because from where we stand, the threat to open spaces and pocket parks in our communities and the consequences of losing them is too serious to be turned into a party political football.

It’s not just Thurrock where this is happening, local authorities all over the place are eyeing up open spaces and pocket parks all over the place. Needless to say, they’re meeting with some stiff opposition from resident action groups, Save Gooshays Village Green Group being just one of many. Unlike the bean counters in the local councils plus those councillors who may have too cosy a relationship with housing developers, residents know the value of their green spaces.

Open spaces and parks are there for a reason – to provide accessible recreation space for anything from a playground for the kids to somewhere to chill out on a summer day. There are numerous studies that show the benefits of green spaces in built up areas: The benefits of green space. Many of the spaces that are or have been under threat in our region are in estates that were built in the 1950s and 60s when planners understood their value to the community. That encompasses everything from somewhere to get close to nature in the less manicured parts to a location for community events. The kind of activities that make a neighbourhood a pleasure to live in, even though they contribute nothing to the bottom line.

The problem is that we live in an economic system that does not like people running or lounging around in parks, socialising and not spending money. The system’s definition of leisure is something you have to jump in a car and travel miles to, pay an entrance fee and let someone else do the entertaining. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what people want. What gets us is the way the system values the kind of leisure you have to shell out a lot of dosh for and has it in for the free kind you can have in your local park. What really gets us is the way the system pushes us towards the kind of leisure you have to fork out for by flogging off our open spaces to housing developers!

People aren’t mugs – they can see what’s going on and like us, are joining the dots because they value community and being close to nature. Well, the fightback against the bastards who want to deny that to us is escalating – let’s see where we can take it…