More than half of local authorities are set to sell off their parks or transfer the management of them, according to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The organisation’s second annual UK Public Parks report finds 50% of park managers reporting parks and green spaces have been sold off or transferred to other groups in recent years, with this figure set to increase to 59% over the next three years.
According to the report, 50% of local authorities have also transferred outdoor sports facilities to community groups over the last three years, and 22.5% of their funding now comes from external sources.
Nearly all the park managers surveyed (92%) also reported revenue budget cuts.
The report says local authorities have a ‘pivotal role’ in ensuring people can enjoy good quality parks.
‘Our parks are an integral part of our lives, places where we relax, play and exercise,’ said the chair of ukactive, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
‘Such assets need to be protected and prioritized, not threatened with decay and closure.
‘This important report will stimulate an essential debate on the future of parks, including the key partnerships – both public and private – required for the future,’ added Baroness Grey-Thompson.
The president of the Landscape Institute, Merrick Denton-Thompson, said the report highlights ‘the peril that our parks are in’ and the Government should put councils under a statutory obligation to create and manage urban spaces.
The chairman of the Local Government Association’s culture, tourism and sport board, Cllr Ian Stephens, said: ‘As this report recognises, councils are taking innovative approaches to using park spaces, such as providing pop-up spaces for local businesses and giving communities a say in how their parks are run.
‘However, over the previous parliament central government funding for councils was reduced by 40% in real terms. Despite this difficult backdrop, councils are doing everything they can to provide the best possible park services,’ added Cllr Stephens.