Greenwich borough residents can look forward to a future of “adequate” parks under a new strategy for getting people fitter and healthier to be approved by senior councillors next week.
The underwhelming ambition accompanies a physical activity and sports strategy, which aims to address the health risks caused by having one in four adult residents being classed as “inactive” – doing less than half an hour of moderate intensity physical activity, even walking, each week.
Only two in 10 secondary school pupils are active on five or more days per week – the recommended activity guidelines for children.
But despite the risks to both physical and mental health from a lack of exercise, the strategy – Greenwich Get Active – contains no targets or explicit plans for new programmes, preferring woolly “high level objectives”.
People in Greenwich, Blackheath and Shooters Hill are more likely to be active. But the figures drop sharply in the poorer north-west of the borough, in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead, which are to be targeted as “priority communities” along with Charlton, Woolwich and much of Kidbrooke and Plumstead.
A report alongside the strategy says the borough aims to “continue providing adequate and well-maintained parks and open spaces enabling all generations to enjoy them and help divert youngsters from crime and antisocial behaviour”, as well as turning them into “lively social hubs”. Earlier this year it emerged Greenwich was unwilling to fund lighting at Charlton skate park to improve safety for skaters and other park users, leaving volunteers to try to raise the money.
It also plans to involve residents in “the design of regeneration projects where places and spaces for physical activity and sport are high on the agenda”, and ensure funding from developers is used for new schemes. The strategy also talks up plans to move the Waterfront Leisure Centre to a new site on General Gordon Square – which is not due to open until 2025, two years after the strategy ends – and the new Plumstead library, which will also contain gym facilities and is set to open at the end of the year.
The plan also addresses criticism that state of the borough’s public realm does not encourage people to walk or cycle, saying: “We are committed to improving the physical environment, including the walking and cycling infrastructure, to make it easier for our residents to be more physically active.” However, again, there is no plan for how this will be done.
Photos taken at the weekly Parkrun event in Avery Hill Park feature throughout the strategy – but Greenwich borough lags well behind its neighbours in hosting the volunteer-led 5k runs, of which there are now 54 in Greater London.
Greenwich has just one adult Parkrun, in Avery Hill Park, Eltham, while Southwark has four (Southwark Park, Dulwich Park, Burgess Park and Peckham Rye Park), Lewisham has three (Hilly Fields, Mountsfield Park, Beckenham Place Park) and Newham and Bexley have two each (Beckton Park and Victoria Dock; Danson Park and Foots Cray Meadows). While there are proposals for one in Sutcliffe Park, Eltham, the strategy contains no plans to help communities host these events in areas such as Charlton Park and Woolwich Common – even though there is funding available.
Greenwich also lags well behind the rest of London in the number of its residents volunteering at sports events, according to the strategy.
The council’s cabinet is set to rubber-stamp the report at its meeting next Tuesday.
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