St. James Park, one of London's finest public spaces

According to an American landscape architect, public green spaces in England are suffering neglect due to the British passion for maintaining private gardens. Gardening is a storied tradition in the country but it most often takes place in the privacy of one’s home.  As a result, according to Harvard Professor Martha Schwartz (as reported in the Telegraph), “policy-makers do not attach so much importance to the aesthetic quality of streets, squares or parks because the public does not demand the same high standards in open areas that they attach to their own gardens.”

This is a dilemna that extends to nearly all public spaces as they struggle to attract funding for much needed upkeep and management. In these situations, it can be helpful to emphasize the communal and wide-ranging benefits of improving public spaces, especially within cities.  Commented Schwartz, “The focus has to be on supporting life within the city, and that requires effective transportation links, good play areas for children, a robust green infrastructure, and well designed and interesting public spaces where people can unwind and relax.”

More information:

  • English obsession with gardening ‘prevents improvement of public parks’, claims Harvard professor [Telegraph.co.uk]