Industry and volunteer group calls for parks enquiry in the next parliament
The Parks Alliance says it welcomes a new report from the Communities and Local Government Committee which acknowledges that funding for parks is being ‘disproportionately squeezed’ and that an inquiry into parks would be valuable.
It is calling on the committee ‘to pick up its own recommendation and hold an enquiry into parks in the next parliament’.
There is a need for greater recognition of the value of parks, and the role they play in an increasingly urban nation, the challenges they face and the role of the government, says Mark Camley, chair of The Parks Alliance.
‘Parks are facing budget cuts, park management teams are facing staffing declines and 45% of local authorities are considering disposing of some green spaces,’ he adds. Yet parks are highly used and valued across the nation, and it is estimated that more than half of the UK population visits a local park once a month or more.
The report lists parks as being among the major developments that the new committee may wish to consider, and cites written evidence submitted by The Parks Alliance. In response to this evidence, says the organisation. The committee agrees that ‘there might be merit in our successors conducting an inquiry into parks’.
Knock on effect
The Parks Alliance's submission detailed findings from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘State of Parks Report’ in 2014, which reported that although the condition of parks is said to have improved in the years following public investment, this is now at risk, and ‘the knock on effect of declines in funding and declines in park management staffing levels is a decrease in quality of parks, and could mean increases in charges for park facilities’.
The Parks Alliance submitted written evidence, which can be viewed on the committee’s inquiry webpage.
Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, says he hopes the report will be useful to its successor committee ‘both in giving an account of our experience over the last five years, and in suggesting a number of topics our successors may wish to consider' and improve the country’s public parks for future generations.
The Parks Alliance has also responded positively to the Health Committee’s report on the impact of physical activity and diet on health by arguing that parks are an investment in the nation’s health and wellbeing’.
The nation's playgrounds
Welcoming the Health Committee’s call to get people moving to improve people’s health, Dr Sid Sullivan of The Parks Alliance says that parks will be key to the success of future campaigns to tackle physical inequality. ‘Parks provide vital health resources that help to support healthy populations – they are the nation’s playgrounds for sports and activity. Good quality green spaces are crucial to increasing the number of people getting active, participating in sport, lowering stress levels and improving the nation’s health.'
The report calls on the next government to make a clear commitment to increase the levels of cycling and walking.
Parks feature in the Heritage Lottery Fund research ’20 Years in 12 Places: 20 years of Lottery funding for Heritage Lottery Fund', released on 17 March. The report shows that parks have the greatest impact on residents' quality of life and, along with major attractions, have the highest levels of awareness and engagement. Mark Camley commented that this research shows that parks are an essential part of UK life, culture and heritage.
People value parks as places to play, walk their dogs, rest, exercise and spend time together all year round, he says, and HLF is playing a crucial role in improving a number of parks ‘against a backdrop of cuts that are pushing thousands of green spaces across the UK to the brink of a crisis’.
There is an urgent need, Mark adds, to invest in and protect important services that parks provide, including tackling public health problems and creating habitat for wildlife.
Working with the National Trust
The Parks Alliance also responded to the National Trust's 10-year strategy. Mark Camley noted that parks are at the heart of UK life and culture and stand on the brink of a funding crisis with eight out of 10 facing further cuts to budgets and staff. ‘Working with local authorities and volunteers, the National Trust can be a useful partner to develop a best practice model to protect a number of parks for future generations,’ he said.
Finally, The Parks Alliance has also welcomed a proposed partnership between the Lawn Tennis Association and parks across the UK to improve sports and leisure facilities .