GREENWICH COUNCIL has claimed victory in its long-held target of achieving twelve Green Flag Awarded parks by 2012. But did the council really meet its ambition for 2012, or did it shift the flagposts after failing to get awards it hoped for? Greenwich.co.uk investigates their claims...
Even more parks and green spaces in the Royal Borough of Greenwich have been awarded prestigious Green Flags this year.
The council boasted across two pages of last week's Greenwich Time newspaper (above) that "thirteen parks and open spaces are flying the Green Flag."
"We are delighted to surpass our target of twelve welcoming green spaces throughout the Royal borough," said Councillor Maureen O'Mara.
Terry Powley, chair of the Greenwich Parks Forum, said: "The Forum is delighted that the ambitious target of 12 green flags by 2012 has not just been achieved but over-reached."
But whilst the rising tally of Green Flags in the borough is good news for the council and residents alike, did the council really "surpass" the target it set itself of twelve Green Flag Parks by 2012, or did it simply change the way it measured its target after failing to get the Green Flags it planned to achieve?
Green Flags and Green Pennants
The Green Flag Awards are a nationwide scheme designed to recognise high quality parks and green spaces in the UK. Greenwich Council set itself a target of reaching twelve Green Flag awarded parks by 2012.
The Green Pennant award - renamed this year as the Green Flag Community Award - is a different award given to community-run green spaces and has never before been included as part of the council's target for twelve Green Flags by 2012.
When announcing its Green Flag awards in the past, the council has only counted the Green Flag Award parks in its headline figure and has never included the community-managed Green Pennant-winning parks.
What the council used to say
"Six [parks] in Greenwich have been recognised," proclaimed the council in 2010. "Greenwich is now half-way towards its target of securing the Green Flag award for 12 of its parks by 2012."
The two green spaces awarded the Green Pennant that year - Slade Ponds and Twinkle Park - were not included in the headline figure or the council's stated target for 2012.
"Greenwich parks secure eight Green Flags," was the council's proud in the summer of 2011.
"The achievement ensures that Greenwich is two thirds of the way to meeting its target of securing the Green Flag award for 12 of its parks by 2012," the press release added.
Again, the two Green Pennant awarded open spaces were not included in their headline figure or their target for 2012.
So with the council "two thirds of the way to meeting its target", how would it make the leap to twelve for this year?
New candidate parks for Green Flags identified
A report by council officers last year identified the four new candidate parks, and the work required in them, to "reach Green Flag standard as part of the Council’s commitment to secure twelve Green Flag parks by 2012"
Revamps would be required in Horn Park, Fairy Hill Park, Maryon Park and Eaglesfield Park to meet the requirements of the Green Flag Award, the report noted.
But while Horn Park and Fairy Hill Park did successfully get the nod from Green Flag inspectors this year, Maryon Park and Eaglesfield Park were not awarded, despite the Cabinet agreeing to spend £169,400 and £53,800 on them respectively to meet the target.
The failure to get Green Flag Awards for Maryon Park and Eaglesfield Park leaves the council's Green Flag Award tally standing only at ten - two BELOW the their stated target of twelve.
Turning failure into victory
So how did the council manage to "surpass" its target while simultaneously failing to reach it? The answer is that they counted their total number of Green Flags differently.
This year, for the first time, Greenwich Council included the sites given the Community Award, now up to three, in the headline figure to allow them to claim that they have THIRTEEN Green Flag sites.
So despite two of the parks that were identified by the council's own officers as new candidate sites for Green Flags failing to get them, and the tally being two less then had been promised, the council's redefined target allows them to claim they surpassed an ambition they actually failed to reach.
Councillor Spencer Drury, leader of the Conservatives on Greenwich Council, commented:
“The Council’s confused and misleading planning for parks is laid bare in this deceitful claim to have gained 13 Green Flag sites when in fact there are only 10 reaching the proper criteria.
"The fact Greenwich Time is once again pushing out this propaganda reinforces our calls for this Council newsletter to be abolished."
Greenwich Council had not responded to requests for a comment by the time of publication.
Green Flag Award 2012-13 winners:
1. Avery Hill Park
2. Eltham Park South
3. Horn Park
4. East Greenwich Pleasaunce
5. Blackheath (jointly held with Lewisham)
6. Sutcliffe Park
7. Fairy Hill Park
8. Charlton Park
9. The Tarn
10. Well Hall Pleasaunce
Green Flag Community Award, formerly known as the Green Pennant, winners:
1. Twinkle Park
2. Slade Ponds
3. Plumstead Common Nature Reserve