SOUTHAMPTON is one of Britain's greenest cities with over 50 parks, greenways and green open spaces.

Some are quite small, others large, and some are even nationally recognised Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Most are managed by the council while some are managed by community groups who raise funds and maintain them.

The city has over 2,800 acres of green space which is about 20 per cent of its total area.

Residents and visitors often say Southampton's parks and green spaces are what they like best about the city.

Many of the green spaces have been in existence for well over 150 years, some for a great deal longer, and today the city has a Green Space Strategy and Action Plan to preserve, protect and develop them.

This hasn't always been the case because, as the city has grown and developed over the years, the green spaces have often provided an easy solution to pressing space problems.

The Southampton Cemetery Act was passed in 1843 which meant 27 acres of The Common were taken to provide a municipal cemetery and, in 1929, a Bill was passed by Parliament enabling nine acres of the West Marlands to be used for constructing the Civic Centre.

The council replaced the nine acres with playing fields at Weston Lane and Shirley Warren. The Rose Garden opposite the Civic Centre was also created.

In 1967 the City Council had plans to build a car park on The Common by the zoo for the increasing numbers of visitors arriving by car and another behind the Cowherds Inn whose owners had plans for extensive alterations approved by the council.

Using common land for the car parks was opposed by The Southampton Civic Trust, The Friends of Old Southampton and Southampton Commons and Parks Protection Society as well many individual citizens.

Taking on the financial might of the council and the brewery was described at the time as a "David and Goliath" confrontation.

The legality of the plans were successfully challenged in the High Court in 1969 but not before Edward Chalk had mortgaged his home to provide the necessary security for potential legal fees.

The challenge led to a new Southampton Common Act passed in 1971.

One small but charming park located in Rockstone Place next to the Magistrates Court was a gift to the city from three sisters, the daughters of Edward Toomer.

Edward and his son Samuel were responsible for the development of much of Carlton Crescent, the Ordnance Survey and Bedford Place.

Edward Toomer bought fields that had been part of Bannister's Farm and were still known by their medieval names of Great and Little Mongers.

In 1879 Edward's daughters Jane, Margaret and Rebecca gave Little Mongers to the people of Southampton covenanted such that the council would keep the land as an open space for ever for the benefit of the people of Southampton and to never build upon it.

During WW2 this small park was used to build air raid shelters for the workers at the nearby Ordnance Survey and after the war it subsequently became a car park, presumably the covenant on the use of the land was forgotten or ignored.

It was an anonymous letter in 1981describing the misuse of the land that led to the matter being raised at Court Leet twice. For whatever reasons the council dragged their heels in restoring the park which was not completed until 1991.

This was at about the same time as the council's proposal for a Light Rail Rapid Transit System was revealed which would pass through the City centre parks. If this proposal was carried, it was argued that it would have meant a substantial loss of parkland, the loss over 60 trees, and noise and vehicle movements that would make the parks less attractive.

In February of 1991 Parliament voted 138 to 49 against the Bill for the council to go ahead with the scheme.

The parks were preserved once more.

rom The Common