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Is it wrong to close off London parks for events?

Festivals and events are blocking off green spaces to non-ticket holders for large chunks of the summer.

For city dwellers not lucky enough to live close to the beach or the countryside, a favourite place to while away the summer days is often their local park. Not only are public parks a chance for urbanites to get up in some greenery, they’re also free to use. Well, mostly. Because public parks, particularly in London, are also super popular with event organisers.

Their festivals, sporting and entertainment events are almost always ticketed, meaning the chunk of park they take over - often for weeks at a time - is only accessible to people who were organised and/or rich enough to snag a ticket. An investigation by Guardian Citiesfound that eleven out of 30 London councils (two more didn’t respond) have some of their park blocked off by entry-fee events for at least one-third of the summer months of May-August. And the majority of that time these sectioned-off parts of parks aren’t being used by anyone except the event staff setting up the required infrastructure.

Some people say that amounts to de facto privatisation (that’s where something is owned by businesses rather than the state). There’s a concern that stopping these spaces from being available to all is a form of inequality, because the poorer you are, the less you’ll be able to afford to spend money on event tickets. And many locals also feel they bear extra, non-money-based cost every time an event is held nearby. Campaign groups in places like Finsbury Park and Battersea Park have complained about the excessive noise, environmental damage and anti-social behaviour that accompanies big events.

But these groups have in turn been criticised for NIMBYism - basically selfishly wanting to hog nearby spaces all for themselves rather than sharing them with everyone. After all, most event attendees are being made happy by that use of the space. Some people also point out that for many local councils, the money from these events is the only way to keep funding the park year-round (someone has to mow the grass and pick up litter) since their budgets have been cut back over the last decade. Without the events, in other words, the parks may not be available for free at all.

Read our explainer on: the tragedy of the commons.

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