Copyright © Southampton Common Forum - 2017

ABOUT US

“Us” is not the Southampton Common Forum’s Management Committee - it is all users of The Common, whatever you use it for; walking, dog walking, running, cycling, commuting, playing, nature watching etc. The list is as big and diverse as The Common’s user population itself. Everyone has a view and everyone has the right to express their view and for it to be heard. The Forum exists to facilitate that discussion, to inform debate and to represent it to Council.

“Your Common - Your Say”

The demographics of Southampton are changing; official figures show that the City population is rising fast, from 239700 in 2010 to 249,500 in 2015 and it is projected to rise to 259600 by 2020. As well as total numbers, the age distribution is also changing and pressure on housing stock means that many more City residents are, and will be, living in flats with little or no personal amenity space. As a consequence, open public spaces are becoming increasingly important in meeting social, leisure and basic health / fitness needs for ever larger numbers of City residents and those spaces need to evolve and adapt to meet these needs. At the same time, local government funding is being squeezed hard and many local authorities, including Southampton, are needing to make drastic cuts to service provision.  Unfortunately, parks and open spaces fall within non-statutory Council functions and so are an easy target for cuts; both investment and basic manpower provision have been significantly cut over recent years and this has inevitably lead to reduced maintenance which can threaten the nature of the environment, access and usability.

 Southampton is not alone in facing this problem, it is recognised, both at governmental level and by national lobby groups, that parks are under real threat (see RHS box for recent data).

This is where Southampton Common Forum fits in. We aim to be a community voice to represent all Common users to Council and to work with Councils to explore, develop and realise the new ways of funding and managing The Common which are needed in today’s economic climate, ensuring that The Common remains a cherished place in the hearts of Southampton residents for generations to come.

The Forum’s Management committee have identified 3 initial priorities to develop to kick start this process:

(1) Richer Engagement: the success of the Forum depends on it being fully engaged with, and representative of, the wide range of users of the Common. We will be exploring different ways to promote and publicise the Forum and to attract as wide and inclusive a membership as possible.

(2) A Plan for the Common: undertaken in partnership with the Council and done from the bottom up, this will draw on the views of the users of The Common to try to develop management plans for the different areas of the site. To develop a template approach, we will start with an evaluation of  the Hawthorns.

(3) Operating Models: looking at what other local authorities are doing to manage their parks and open spaces in the current economic climate, looking to see what works and what doesn’t work and how these ideas could be adopted for The Common.

The Forum’s Management Committee can’t do this alone, we need help from you; sharing your thoughts and ideas with us through public meetings, online surveys and the such like, spreading the word about the Forum to raise awareness, membership and representation and directly volunteering to help on steering groups and in practical projects. We need both “bums on seats” and “bums off seats”, working with us on the ground.

Please do get involved, in whatever way you are able to

The state of the Nation’s parks

In 11th February 2017, the House of Commons Select Committee on Communities and Local Government published its report on its enquiry into the state of the nations parks. The report flagged up to Government the serious effect that cuts in local government spending were having on the state of the nation’s parks and the knock on adverse affect this was having on the delivery of core government policies especially those related to health.

Find out more about the enquiry here.

Read the submitted evidence here.

Download the final report here.

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 In 2016, the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned its own survey and report into the state of the nation’s parks. This showed a growing deficit between the rising use of parks and the declining resources that are available to manage them. It concluded that, without urgent action, the continuing downward trend in the condition of many of our most treasured parks and green spaces is set to continue and that new ways of working and generating income and shared learning and collaboration are needed to support those who manage public parks.  New ways of funding and managing public parks are needed to avert a crisis.