The inquiry into public parks asked three key questions: why parks matter, what challenges are facing the parks sector, and how to secure a sustainable future for parks. The level of response clearly demonstrated the strength of the feeling people have for their local parks and green spaces, and how much parks are valued by individuals, families and communities.
- Parks and green spaces are treasured assets and are often central to the lives of their communities. They provide opportunities for leisure, relaxation and exercise, but are also fundamental to community cohesion, physical and mental health and wellbeing, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and local economic growth.
- Parks face considerable challenges. As shared community assets, they must serve many different purposes, and be able to respond to the different and sometimes clashing needs of local communities. They must compete with other services for investment to secure their short and long term sustainability. Distribution of parks is unequal across the country, with many deprived communities struggling to access the benefits which green spaces can provide. Planning policy, particularly as a result of pressures to increase housing supply, may not always give enough priority to parks and green spaces, or to other elements of our green infrastructure.
- Meeting the challenges which face our parks and green spaces and securing a sustainable future for them will require responses on many levels. Communities have a role to play, whether through friends, volunteers, or other community groups. Innovation in management models and funding sources is also needed.
- We recommend that the Minister publishes guidance to local authorities that they should work collaboratively with Health and Wellbeing Boards to prepare and publish joint parks and green space strategies that clearly articulate the contribution of parks to wider local authority objectives, and set out how parks will be managed to maximise such contributions.
Parks and green spaces matter. They make a vital contribution to many of our most important strategic objectives, such as climate change mitigation, public health and community integration. However parks are at a tipping point, and failure to match their value and the contribution they make with the resources they need to be sustained could have severe consequences. We believe that our recommendations will help to ensure that parks receive the priority they deserve, and to prevent a period of decline.
Download the report here.