Futures Forum: Are your parks and green spaces at risk?
There are several campaigns under way - and one is simply a matter of contacting your local councillor:
Futures Forum: "Email your councillor calling on them to do all they can to protect our parks"
The Parliament's communities and local government committee has just published its findings:
Parks face threat of decline with severe consequences
Parks face threat of decline with severe consequences - News from Parliament - UK Parliament
This is the Guardian's report on the state of our green spaces:
UK's cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warnSlashed budgets risk the nation’s 27,000 parks becoming no-go areas, with negative effects on park-goers’ health and the environment
The UK’s cash-starved parks are at a tipping point of decline, MPs have warned, with severe impacts expected for park-goers’ health, community cohesion and the environment.
The nation’s 27,000 parks are highly valued by their 37 million regular users, but funding has plummeted in recent years as local authority budgets have been slashed. An inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs found that the huge benefits that flow from green spaces are now at the point of being lost.
“Parks are treasured public assets, as the overwhelming response to our inquiry demonstrates, but they are at a tipping point, and if we are to prevent a period of decline with potentially severe consequences then action must be taken,” said Clive Betts, who chairs the communities and local government committee.
Over 92% of park budgets have been cut by local authorities, which have suffered an overall 27% budget cut in real terms since 2010-11. Some city councils, such as Newcastle’s, have cut park funds by 97%.
“Areas of parks are being downgraded and left to grow wild,” said Betts, while football pitches are being left unplayable and flower beds left unplanted. The committee’s report also found evidence of broken playground equipment going unrepaired and litter, vandalism and other crime rising.
Park managers warned in September that the neglect of parks was set to plunge them “into the disaster crisis of the 1980s and 1990s when they became no-go areas full of syringes and no park rangers.”
The report concludes that ministers and local authorities must find new ways to run parks that involve all the organisations that benefit from them, for example using funds aimed at cutting obesity to maintain parks as places to exercise.
Well maintained parks bring people a huge range of benefits, according to the evidence submitted to the inquiry, from increased fitness to better mental health and stronger community integration. “Peace, tranquility and a place where people of all backgrounds and ages mingle: [parks are] a little bit of paradise,” said Catherine Davidson, from Hammersmith, London. They are also crucial to young children; 90% of under-fives regularly play in parks.
Matthew Bradbury, chairman of the Parks Alliance, said: “It’s important the committee has recognised that parks are central to our wellbeing, but it is bittersweet to read a report which confirms what we have believed for some time, that parks are at a tipping point. They are at the heart of British life yet are a cinderella service set against competing financial demands.”The environmental benefits are strong too, with trees curbing air pollution, parkland absorbing rain and reducing flooding, and planted areas providing habitat for struggling wildlife such as bees. With climate change expected to cause more heatwaves, parks can also cool urban areas. Environmental consultant Michelle Furtado told MPs green spaces can cut local temperatures by 2-8C.
Bradbury wants ministers to go further than suggested by MPs and dedicate central government funding to parks: “If this comparatively small investment is made, it will deliver huge return in terms of improved wellbeing, social cohesion and environmental management.”
Edinburgh city council said that £1 invested in parks delivers £12 of “social, environmental and economic benefits”, while Sheffield city council found the benefits were even higher, at £34. Separate work by the University of Exeter concluded green spaces in England alone contribute £2.2bn a year to public health.
The MPs said the work of volunteers was important in maintaining parks but “it would be unfair and short-sighted to lay responsibility for resolving the challenges parks face wholly at their doors.” The increasing number of private events in parks does raise important funds, said Betts, but the public must be thoroughly consulted on events that do not provide free access.
A spokesman for the department for communities and local government said: “Parks breathe life into our towns and cities and are vital spaces for the whole community to come together to exercise, learn and play. That’s why last year we announced a £1.5m fund to deliver 87 pocket parks to benefit those living in urban areas with limited access to green space. We’re committed to keeping parks at the heart of the community, and we will respond fully to the committee’s recommendations in due course.”
More than 320,000 people signed a 38 Degrees petition asking that a legal duty was placed on local authorities to maintain parks. But the committee rejected this as “burdensome and complex”. Charlotte Woodworth, campaigns director at 38 Degrees said: “It is vital the government now takes urgent action to ensure councils around the country have the sufficient resources to protect and maintain our local parks and outdoor space. If not, we risk losing them for future generations.”
The MPs report noted that this was not a new concern, recording that in 1833 the select committee on public walks had been charged with “considering the best means of securing open spaces in the immediate vicinity of populous towns, as public walks calculated to promote the health and comfort of the inhabitants”.
UK's cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warn | Cities | The Guardian