Southwark Council is consulting on proposals to improve the entrance to Burgess Park from Southampton Way.
For 70 years this has been an eyesore, waiting to be integrated into Burgess Park and the adjacent New Church Road wildlife site. Three times the council tried to sell off the wildlife site, but three times I managed to ensure at a Public Inquiry that they were stopped. So it is great news that they are finally implementing the original plans to complete this section of the park, rather than selling it off.
As part of the consultation they are asking if the park should have a boundary that allows passing motorists to be able to see into the park or whether it should have a natural green shrubbery screening the roads for those using the park?
This argument has raged for years. Councillors, largely drivers, repeatedly sought to remove shrubberies and railings so drivers can see into the green parks as they pass. But parents and park users wanted the railings and shrubberies, especially as they protected their kids from running out onto the road.
Boundary shrubberies have numerous other advantages. Importantly they help prevent lethal pollution from roads entering the park. This is crucial as car-pollution is now one of the biggest killers in Southwark and is stunting our children’s lungs. Secondly, people go into parks to escape the built environment and enjoy nature. Studies have shown that this helps maintain mental health. If there are no shrubberies or trees protecting the borders of our parks, as along large sections of Peckham Rye Park, the noisy roads and adjacent tower blocks are the views people will have when in the parks, thus damaging their health.
Shrubberies are not only beautiful but are excellent for wildlife, providing food, shelter and nesting sites for a wide variety of birds, insects including bees and animals, instead of a sterile grass desert. They can even be a source of local human foods, as they can include fruit and nut trees and wild foraging foods.
So let’s end this destructive impact of cars on our parks and children. Parks are for people and nature. Let’s celebrate that by creating beautiful shrubberies along their edges.
Donnachadh McCarthy has been an environmental campaigner in Southwark since 1992 and is author of “The Prostitute State – How Britain’s Democracy Has Been Bought” www.theprostitutestate.co.uk. He is also an independent environmental consultant www.3acorns.co.uk @DonnachadhMc