Council chiefs have thrown their support behind a new Government-created group looking into the future of parks despite funding pressures.
The parks and green spaces minister, Marcus Jones MP, has announced the creation of an advisory Parks Action Group which will look into the future of parks and green spaces.
The announcement was made as the charity Fields in Trust, who will be represented on the group, released new research demonstrating a ‘direct and statistically significant’ link between publicly accessible parks and green spaces and health and well being.
Based on new analysis of existing data from Defra and Natural England and a new primary data (sample size 4,033), the charity found, on average, the more frequently park/green space trips are made, the higher an individual’s wellbeing.
They also found green spaces were good for producing community connections and helping to reduce the risk of loneliness.
‘I welcome the Ministers response to the CLG Parliamentary Committee and Fields in Trust’s appointment to the newly established Parks Action Group at this pivotal moment for the future of parks and green spaces,’ said the charity’s chief executive, Helen Griffiths.
‘Our ongoing research recognises how these spaces help to address significant public policy issues including health and wellbeing and community integration.
‘We are looking forward to furthering our work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that we value parks and green spaces and take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.’
A Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) report into the state of the UK’s parks published last year found that Government cuts were impacting upon the running of parks.
It found 92% of park managers reported cuts to their revenue budget over the past three years and 95% of park managers expect their revenue budget to be cut over the next three years.
The charity also noted its agreement with the report which stated: ‘continued local authority leadership is needed. As owners of most public parks and green spaces, councils have a pivotal role in ensuring the continued provision of quality parks.’
Responding to the creation of the Parks Action Group, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) culture, tourism and sport board, said: ‘Councils understand how important parks are to residents as community assets, and are using them to promote health and fitness, local heritage, public art, festivals and wildlife walks, as well as to provide pop-up spaces, host local events and give communities a say in how their parks are run.
‘However, despite ongoing funding pressures, which are having an impact on maintenance budgets, councils are determined to ensure parks remain open and accessible to our communities, which is why we fully support this Parks Action Group, which we hope will help protect public parks for the enjoyment of current and future generations.’