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– Calls grow for provision of public parks to become a statutory service

Great news! After much lobbying and calls over the last 5 years for Government action to address the underfunding crisis threatening the UK’s green spaces*,  Parliament’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee has announced an Inquiry into the future of the UK’s public parks. The Inquiry will ‘examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns that their existence is under threat…’   ‘The Committee will look at how parks should be supported now and in the future.’  The deadline for responses and evidence is September 30th 2016** , and the full details can be read at:

In 2014/15 thousands of managers, professionals, advocates, experts and activists in the green space sector – plus a range of key organisations from Groundwork to Unison, from the Countryside Management Association to Fields In Trust – signed up to the following call circulated by the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces:

The Government must:
hold a National Inquiry into the funding and management of the UK’s green spaces
bring in a Statutory Duty to monitor and manage these spaces to Green Flag Award standard
ensure adequate public resources and protection for all green spaces

We believe this should be the starting point for the response from whole Sector and for all those who care about the future of the estimated 27,000 public parks and green spaces of all kinds. In our opinion it is the only realistic approach. Indeed no other comprehensive strategy has ever been put forward.

Obviously the details need to be debated and developed, but the Scrutiny Committee has already identified the above issues as key questions for the Inquiry:
– ‘What the administrative status of parks should be in light of declining local authority resources for non-statutory services’
[NFPGS comment: ie should it be a statutory service?]
What additional or alternative funding is available..’
[NFPGS comment: eg Government support including via local and national taxation].

This is a historic opportunity to speak out loud and clear for urgent, effective, comprehensive and long-term Government action to reverse the underfunding crisis and to protect the UK’s public green spaces for generations to come.

Dave Morris
Chair, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

*  Note 1: The NFPGS have played a key role. We are also active members of The Parks Alliance who have been lobbying behind the scenes for such an Inquiry.
** Note 2:  We will be sending out more information and some detailed proposals in due course.

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The Chair of the Committee, Clive Betts MP, stated when launching the Inquiry (11th July): ‘ With councils under enormous financial pressures and with no legal obligation to fund and maintain public parks, these precious community resources may be at risk. The Committee will be asking what the future is for our open spaces and we want to explore the ways in which parks can be supported and secured for generations to come.’

Dave Morris, Chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, says: ‘ The inspirational rise of the Friends Groups movement over the last 15 years  – now over 5,000 local groups – and the hard work and expertise of green space staff, managers and professionals, has demonstrated the commitment of the public and all those who love parks. We believe that there must now be an equivalent recognition and commitment from all in Parliament. We call on the Government to reverse the underfunding crisis and to make the provision of public green spaces a statutory service.’

The Parks Alliance has said:  ‘ Parks are highly valued by all those who use them, with over half of the UK population using their local park [regularly], yet the challenge of managing our parks and green spaces is given a very low priority. Parks deliver a wide range of benefits to society, but these benefits are not properly understood or acknowledged. These include: boosting the local economy through attracting businesses and tourists; improving mental and physical health; offsetting pollution and flood risks; encouraging volunteering and community cohesion; and providing an urban habitat for the UK’s wildlife. Local authorities, voluntary groups and contractors have done an excellent job of offsetting significant budget reductions by working inventively and collaboratively to find new solutions. This has disguised the depth of the crisis. Professionally, the sector is at a tipping point, with a high percentage of parks managers having left the sector leading to a degradation of the skills base. The Parks Alliance acknowledges the competing demands of local government, but suggests that the Select Committee investigates the pros and cons of making the upkeep of parks and open spaces a statutory service.’