Published by Policy Exchange 2014.
Green Society highlights the importance of urban green spaces to the social and economic wellbeing of the country and outlines a wide range of proposals to maintain and improve them at a time when local authority budgets are being cut. Combined with the increasing demand for housing and other urban development, these cuts mean there is a risk that the UK’s parks will deteriorate or become spaces that are the preserve of the wealthy.
Proposals include the idea of a full or partial council tax rebate for local residents who volunteer to maintain and improve nearby green spaces. This would not only provide a solution to the declining number of park rangers but would encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and income groups to become actively engaged in their local communities.
• Local authority spending on open spaces was cut by an average of 10.5% between 2010/11 and 2012/13 leaving a funding gap, particularly for maintenance.
• Since 2011 there has been a 30% increase in Friends and user groups showing that people care about local green spaces.
• Innovative proposals to protect the UK’s urban green spaces include:
- Piloting Park Improvement Districts to help fund the long-term maintenance and improvement of local environments.
- Charging a park levy on top of council tax to residents living close to green space, as is already done in parts of London
- Introducing US-style Living Legacies – a trust providing a donor with an annual income for a set time, after which the capital goes to the charity – with green space charities able to benefit.
- Tapping into public health funding through green prescribing: prescribing ecotherapy such as group walking or gardening in parks as a remedy for obesity or mental illness.
- Allow civic improvement groups, such as Friends groups who maintain green spaces, to claim gift aid on donations.
- Require new green spaces to include a long-term funding plan, which may include endowments part-funded by the developer
- Investigate whether endowments, as developed by the Land Trust, could be used to fund existing green spaces.
- Establish a new competition for proposals to increase connectivity between urban green spaces at city level.
- Seek funding from Police ad Crime Commissioners to support park keepers in green spaces that are crime hotspots.
- Incentivise community involvement through council tax rebates for individuals and Community Cashback schemes.