I owe this one to my walking boots. My (slightly unrealistic) idea in March was to understand the management of all green spaces across Haringey. Local reserves, parks, gardens, recreational grounds, allotments, woods and walkways. With too much enthusiasm for my own good, I began reading through the pages (and pages) of Management Action Plans for various local sites.
It didn’t take long to realise that large scale management strategies were going to take a little bit longer to get to grips with than I’d anticipated – and rightfully so. Clif, Railway Fields Senior Project Officer, has been busy writing Conservation Action Plans (CAPs) alongside Haringey Council to support the conservation effort of green spaces and local Friends Groups. I’m excited to be part of this process having recently been in touch with a small grassroots group – with the intention to write a CAP for the woodland surrounding their housing estate.
In a nutshell, Conservation Action Planning (CAP) is a relatively straightforward and proven approach for planning, implementing and measuring the success of conservation projects. CAP’s highlight biodiversity of interest within a site and the threats they face alongside social, economic, political and cultural factors.
Clif decided to break the overall management across Haringey down and walk me through each site’s CAP, step-by-step. Literally. We agreed to circumnavigate each site entirely by foot. Thank you boots! We met with various ‘Friends Of’ group members along the way to get a feel for community involvement and current volunteer activity. Each site boasted its own character; shape and size, biodiversity and history. One moment I’d be disorientated in ancient woodland and the next I’d be walking through sites that have suffered from deprivation, crime, vandalism and social neglect. The variety of 16 sites and counting got me thinking.
I’m beginning to see that there are lots of reasons why we need community development, debatably now more than ever. Expectations are increasing for communities to take on roles in design and delivery, planning and budgets for their local neighbourhoods. Accounting for differing and minority voices amongst this can be a real challenge for diverse and rapidly changing communities. Alongside the hit of reduced spending, cuts and deprivation, communities can feel disempowered.
Community development has the ability to tackle these issues and help competing community voices be heard and shared. Over the past few months I’ve chatted with groups and individuals who have made it clear to me that local people have a huge capacity and potential to make their places greener and better to live in. All they need is a little bit of support to capture and invest in the momentum. Alongside writing and implementing CAP’s and management plans, there’s got to be people listening and enabling the voices of local groups and the ideas they bring.