Laura Sharman 13 February 2017

Public parks at ‘tipping point’ due to funding cuts

Public parks are facing a period of decline due to budget cuts of up to 97%, a new report has warned.

The Public Parks report, published by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, found parks were being forced to compete with other services for funding. It calls on council to publish strategic plans to recognise the value of parks beyond leisure and recreation.

It also said fundamental service transformation and innovation in finding funding sources was required to sustain parks in the long term.

Clive Betts, chair of the CLG Committee, said: ‘Every local authority should have a strategic plan, recognising that parks are much more than just grass and tulips and bringing in resources from outside the traditional budgets. Parks make vital contributions to physical and mental health and bring significant community benefits. They also contribute to biodiversity and climate change mitigation and can assist in local economic growth.

‘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.’

The report also highlighted that the unequal distribution of parks meant people in deprived areas were struggling to access the benefits that parks can offer.

Responding to the report, Matthew Bradbury, chairman of The Parks Alliance, said: ‘Fundamentally, we believe there is a case for greater leadership to ensure our public parks and open spaces thrive.

'We would go further than the report and ask that investment is directed by central government to ensure there is strong leadership in the parks sector. If this comparatively small investment is made, it will deliver huge return in terms of improved wellbeing, social cohesion and environmental management.’

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