80% drop in Green Flags for Newcastle's parks under Labour administration

July 23, 2015 4:20 PM

"It was striking to note that Newcastle City Council was not quoted in your coverage of the current round of Green Flag awards for parks in our region," Councillor Greg Stone has written to the Evening Chronicle

Whilst it was good news that Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park in my area retained their Green Flags, it was disappointing to see previous holder Paddy Freemans Park lose its status.

Sadly this marks a significant drop in Newcastle City Council's performance. Under Liberal Democrat management the council secured no fewer than ten Green Flags. Since Labour took over, eight have lost their status - including Leazes, Elswick, Gosforth Central, Walker, and Tyne Riverside. No wonder Newcastle didn't feature in the article.

Furthermore, the city's nursery at Jesmond Dene Road, which provided the city's floral displays, now stands empty after it too was closed, seemingly without an alternative use in mind.

Doubtless some Labour councillor will write to complain that this sad state of affairs is due to Government cuts. Possibly, but that doesn't seem to have stopped other North East councils retaining their Green Flags. Indeed, Opposition Lib Dem councillors proposed budget amendments protecting parks funding, but these were voted down by the Labour majority.

It is rumoured Newcastle council now wants to cease funding parks completely and transfer management to civic and user trusts. Whilst I am all in favour of more volunteers getting involved (I am a founder member of the Friends of Paddy Freemans) it is a great shame that the quality of Newcastle's parks is such a low priority for the Labour council leadership. Presumably they have far more important things to worry about - such as spending £45m on offices at the Civic Centre.

Cllr Greg Stone
Lib Dem, North Heaton, Newcastle City Council