Action is needed to avert a crisis that will undermine more than two decades of investment in the UK’s public parks, according to a new Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) report. www.hlf.org.uk/state-uk-public-parks-2016
Thanks to National Lottery players, our parks are in great shape. With the Big Lottery Fund, HLF have invested over £ 850 million in more than 800 of the UK’s public parks, improving facilities, renovating historic features and making them more popular than ever.
But according to our new State of UK Public Parks 2016 report, there is a growing deficit between the rising use of parks and the declining resources available to manage them.
Two years on from the first report into the state of UK parks, the downward trend in condition and maintenance we predicted in 2014 looks set to continue and many of our precious parks and green spaces face an uncertain future.
HLF surveyed park managers across the country. It revealed that 95 per cent of them expect further budget cuts over the next three years, which they think will lead to a decline in quality, skills and morale, and a rise in charges, complaints and the closure of facilities.
We all need to act now.
HLF are calling for continued commitment to parks from local authorities, with research showing their leadership has a significant positive impact. But there also needs to be collaboration across the parks sector, business, park users and local and central government to develop new ways to fund and manage parks.
Ros Kerslake, HLF Chief Executive said: “Put simply, parks are not a luxury. They are essential to our increasingly busy urban lives and thanks to National Lottery players they’ve never been in such great shape.
“But these are financially tough times and if we are to successfully halt the onset of decline in our parks and avoid wasting this investment, we need to come together now to find innovative and sustainable models of funding and maintaining these highly valued community spaces.”
Heritage Lottery Fund 07/09/2016
South Ashford wishes to make it clear that Ashford Borough Council have not given any indication that they intend to reduce investment in parks and open spaces. To the contrary, they have announced that from October landscape maintenance is to be undertaken directly by Ashford Borough Council and will be investing in the new direct labour organisation. We will be revealing further information during coming weeks regarding this initiative.
The HLF State of Public Parks Report states “Councils that consider their parks to be a priority, have a parks strategy in place, and an elected member as a parks champion tend to have better parks. …
There is also a distinct difference in the trend in condition of parks where parks are also considered to be a corporate priority. Over the past three years … 82% of councils who report both improving parks and that their parks are a corporate priority. This percentage difference is very similar when looking forward to the next three years and this is also the case for those councils with an elected parks champion.”
ABC have an appointed Cabinet Member as Portfolio Holder for Environment, Culture, Leisure, Parks & Open Space – Cllr Mrs Blanford. Priority 4 in ABC’s Corporate Plan is “To achieve an environment that creates higher standards of public space design, alongside improved standards of presentation of key green spaces. To safeguard and conserve our local heritage and areas of outstanding landscape quality to ensure the very best attractive environment with thriving and vibrant town centres“. As we have reported a Draft Masterplan for Victoria Park and Watercress Fields was adopted by the ABC Cabinet in March of this year.
An application for HLF funding, by ABC, for implementation of part of the Victoria Park and Watercress Fields Masterplan was unsuccessful.
South Ashford Community Forum are considering a submission to the Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government (CLGC). We would like your contributions to that submission https://southashford.org.uk/index.php/2016/09/02/tell-us-why-parks-in-south-ashford-matter/.
These matters will be discussed at the South Ashford Community Forum Meeting on 21 July 2016 https://southashford.org.uk/index.php/2016/09/03/sacf-september-meeting