In praise of Shropshire Council and QEII fields

I take my hat off to Shropshire Council for its excellent work in securing Queen Elizabeth II Fields status for 23 sites. This should ensure that these green spaces are preserved in perpetuity.

In a country that is around nine-tenths countryside, it might seem surprising that we are often short of green space, and more surprising still that the problem is often most acute in small towns and villages which are wrapped in green fields. But the countryside for all its beauty is often not accessible for a short stroll or a safe place for children to play.

People, especially children and the infirm, need accessible green spaces on their doorsteps where they can play or simply take the air. It is these spaces, along with school playing fields, that have come under so much development pressure in recent years.

Governments of all persuasions have of course promised to preserve urban and rural leisure spaces. But councils of all persuasions have too often found pressing needs, often the lure of cash, to sell off their green spaces. The government is also currently weakening town green law, aiming to make it much harder for communities to protect much loved spaces threatened by development.

The QEII Fields Challenge is a simple, relatively inexpensive scheme that is helping preserve the quality of neighbourhoods. With a nation that is increasingly overweight – nearly one in six children leaving primary school is obese according to the NHS – green space is needed more than ever.

It is disappointing and puzzling that the QEII Fields scheme has only so far designated 1,300 green spaces, well short of its 2012 target by 2012. Shropshire Council is among those showing a lead. Why are other councils such laggards?