Region’s parks at risk of ‘decline’, MPs warn

Bailiff Bridge Memorial Park in Calderdale
Bailiff Bridge Memorial Park in Calderdale
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A squeeze on council funding and poor planning has left the country’s public parks at “tipping point”, a group of MPs has warned, as they call on Government to give these valuable green spaces the “priority they deserve”.

The latest report from Parliament’s Communities and Local Government committee concludes that parks across the UK face a “period of decline” unless there is a “fundamental” change in the way they are managed and funded.

It stresses that these “treasured assets” make a “vital contribution” in areas ranging from public health, community integration and climate change mitigation.

But it says housing pressures and cuts to parks management budgets of up to 97 per cent has left them struggling to compete with other services for funding.

“Parks are treasured public assets... but they are at a tipping point,” said committee chairman and Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts. “If we are to prevent a period of decline with potentially severe consequences then action must be taken.

“Parks make vital contributions to physical and mental health and bring significant community benefits. They also contribute to biodiversity and climate change mitigation and can assist in local economic growth.

“We call on everyone who cares about parks to be our eyes and ears on the ground and keep up the pressure on national and local government.”

Participants in the inquiry include Sheffield City Council, which warned MPs that park services “continue to face a major challenges” and there are “no easy answers”.

Meanwhile Leeds City Council claimed budget cuts threaten to “compromise” its ability to maintain park standards and could lead to “a return to the decline experienced in the 1970s and 1980s”.

The committee has responded by calling on councils to draw up new strategic plans, to set out how local parks can be managed to “maximise their contribution” to broader policy agendas such as promoting healthy lifestyles, tackling social exclusion and managing flood risk. But it also calls on central government to provide leadership, while suggesting local organisations that make frequent use of parks – such as parkrun – should be encouraged to volunteer time for maintenance or fundraising activities.

Mr Betts said his committee will review progress before the end of this Parliament.