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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trying to save our endangered parks

The Guardian reports that a coalition of countryside groups and environmentalists are calling on the government to protect the UK’s parks and green spaces which are at “crisis point” following years of swingeing budget cuts.

They say that the group has today put forward a “Charter for Parks” which calls on ministers in England, Wales and Scotland to make it a legal requirement for all parks and green spaces to be maintained and managed to a “good standard.” It also calls on them “to recognise the right of every citizen to have access within walking distance to a good-quality public green space.”

Dave Morris, Chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces believes that time is running out to save our parks and green spaces:

“Budget cuts to staffing and maintenance are leaving them vulnerable to neglect and deterioration, or even sell offs. Many people think local councils are legally responsible for maintaining local parks and open spaces but unfortunately, unlike waste collection, that’s not the case yet.”

He said the charter called on politicians “to take action to ensure these essential and highly-popular public resources are properly funded, managed, maintained, and protected for current and future generations.”

The group's concern is backed up by others. The paper says that in 2017 an inquiry into the future of parks by MPs found that they were at a “tipping point”, and in 2016 a separate study from the Heritage Lottery Fund found the UK’s parks risked falling into disrepair and neglect as a result of budget cuts.

While 90% of families with children aged under five had used their local park at least once in the past month, the study said, 92% of park managers had had their budgets cut and 95% were facing further reductions.

This is certainly a major problem. As a local councillor I know how difficult it is to get things done in local parks due to competing budget priorities.

In many cases it is almost as if these green lungs are being left to wither on the vine simply because the council does not have the resources to carry out major maintenance.

It is only because of the dedication and commitment of a dwindling number of hard-working officers that we are able to keep our head above water. Parks and green spaces are absolutely central to local communities. This issue does need to be taken more seriously by national governments.
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