The Parks Alliance (TPA), the UK’s voice of parks, today responded to the Communities and Local Government Committee’s report on their inquiry into public parks by calling on the government to take a joined up approach across Departments to fund them.
Over half the UK population regularly use their local park, yet the challenge of managing our parks and green spaces is increasing due to the continued reduction in funding and loss of staff and skills. We have to find a solution now before the improvements made over the past 20 years are lost and our parks, once again, go into decline and become places that require significant investment.
Matthew Bradbury, Chairman of The Parks Alliance, said:
“We welcome the report but just see this as the start of the process to protect and enhance our parks. It gives all of us, the public, park professionals, local and central government the opportunity to seek solutions and avoid merely nursing our parks into a managed decline.
“It’s important that the Committee has recognised that parks are central to our wellbeing but it is bitter sweet to read a report which confirms what we have believed for some time that parks are at a tipping point. They are at the heart of British life yet are a cinderella service set against competing financial demands.
“The Parks Alliance would support the call for local authorities to publish strategic plans to recognise the value of parks beyond leisure and recreation but there is a role for central government too. The Government should issue guidance to councils to work with Health and Wellbeing Boards and others. But they can and should, do more.
“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. We need to consolidate on what’s been achieved over the years and reap the benefits. In order for leadership and national coordination to develop, this will require the necessary and urgent investment. It is then up to the Parks Alliance and others to step forward and prepare the profession to respond and continue to innovate to protect our parks.
“We have long counselled that there is no single solution that will solve the long term sustainability of parks. The Alliance stands ready to help and explore alternative models with the Parks Minister, Andrew Percy MP, the Local Government Association and local authorities. For instance we would like to see what more can be done to ensure new developments consider the need for access to public parks and open spaces for their residents. We need to grasp the opportunities for new development to finance the provision of new open spaces.
“We welcome the recognition of the need to engage with other government departments to tackle the challenges we face and look forward to hearing from the Minister on how we can collaborate with his cross department group.
“The Committee will return to this issue to gauge the progress made before the end of this Parliament. We at the Alliance, will certainly be keeping the pressure up.”