City Parks rangers are important to our environment - not a fringe benefit

The proposal to cut nine or 10 rangers down to three is a false economy.

The proposal to cut nine or 10 rangers down to three is a false economy.

It appears to have been done on the back of a cigarette packet rather than through any assessment of what is required. Nor were volunteers consulted prior to the announcement. The first they knew about it was from the press, yet these are the very people the council is hoping will step forward to fill the void. So much for working in partnership with the local community.

The trouble is the ranger service is seen as a fringe benefit, a nice to have facility on a sunny day, but not really core to council work. Well, that out-dated idea needs to change.

Research has shown the importance of green space for people’s mental and physical well-being.

The reality is that green space is part of the natural health service, a hugely important but overlooked aspect of our healthcare. And the rangers facilitate that healthcare. Without them our green spaces would fall into decline. They would become overgrown, potentially dangerous as broken steps, railings and other facilities were not repaired. They would become strewn with rubbish and more off-putting so that people would slowly stop using them.

When we won the international accolade of UNESCO Biosphere designation, what helped us win was the quality of our green spaces and the volunteers helping to look after them. But these volunteers cannot do it alone.

Without proper support, many of the groups will simply fold. A single ranger allocated to supporting the 30 or so local groups is not enough.

Sure the ranger service needs to make savings, but those savings should be driven by what is needed to enable volunteers to do more than they do already. Got right and this proposal could increase benefits for the local community, but as it stands the hatchet job could destroy the very groups it needs to nurture.

Chris Todd is  a member of the following organisations: Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth; elected environment representative for Community Works; board member of Brighton and Lewes Downs Biosphere Partnership; member of Friends of Hollingbury and Burstead Woods.