Steven Chown presented to the Forum an informal update from Parks & Countryside service.
It was noted that the Council has big savings targets to meet as part of the transformation programme. Local green spaces were the area which was most loved by Bracknell residents and it was important to other aspects of councils agenda including public health that these are protected.
It was confirmed that £400k of savings needed to be found in total, however it was acknowledged that the department had a greatest potential to earn income from new services.
The council would also look to work with other partners to deliver services and encourage people to join in and volunteer. This would include working with partners to apply for grant funding as a collective.
It was acknowledged that where the department was adding income generating services, they would need to provide a better service in exchange for the charge. The number of staff would stay the same which would provide challenges however efficiencies were being found so there was time for income generating projects.
The strategic options proposed were:
- Income generating options included: chargeable car park facilities, access to parks for commercial dog walkers, and catering vans
- Minimisation of land management costs through volunteering and sponsorship
- It was noted that the public were supportive of issuing fines to people who misuse open spaces. The fines would not generate income however if it could improve behaviour which would mean less costs and less staff time. Any surplus would be put towards good causes.
- Members had supported developing Horseshoe Lake as a Country park which would provide more opportunities for people to access the park. This would include the addition of a café, a more focused water sports offer, a cycle area and a play area to educate about the outdoors and nesting birds. Happy that RSPB Reserve visitors will have access to facilities.
- Concerns were raised that roadside walking would be dangerous and questions were raised to see if this could be improved. It was noted that this detail had not been considered yet but the traffic management study would consider access.
- £333K savings had already been committed for 2017-2018 with the bulk of savings made from changes to charges made to developers. Currently developers paid money to enhance and maintain local green spaces but nothing towards facilitation of the scheme as a whole which was now being charged for.
- A huge amount of contaminated grass is generated within the Borough but a biomass burner which would generate heat for the new building at Horseshoe Lake.
- Hay would be stock piled to heat the building for the rest of the year
- The potential to kiln dry wood in the future was also being explored. It was hoped that it would be a volunteer led business in processing the wood and charcoal kiln
John Deakin happy to collaborate regarding wood products in future and share contacts if required.
- SANGS are providing significant income through the development process and would continue with work with the local plan.
- Trying to unify the number of sites and to provide a more seamless approach over time.
Other future projects include:
- Highway trees – offering tree pruning solutions to the public, rather than giving just the statutory responsibility to householder, to reduce risk to the highway.
- Could possibly work with ROW
- Utility companies would be charged more consistently for their use of public land.
- Street trading licenses would be introduced by targeting carparks with the most antisocial behaviour as legitimate businesses provided more scrutiny.
- There would be a nominal charge where staff time is involved in Ranger led walks. However in future the department would look for grant money to fund these events.
- The results of a survey meant had shown that - 74% of people wanted a country park, 86% agreed with commercial sponsorship and 71% agreed with fixed penalty notices.