06 December 2014

Investing in Our Public Green Spaces

By Alona Sheridan (Chair, Friends of Mayow Park)

The budgets for the UK’s public parks have nationally seen significant cuts in recent years according to the 2014 Heritage Lottery Fund report. It found that 86% of park managers have had budgets cut since 2010 and almost half of councils are considering selling their green spaces. At risk are parks’ opening hours, funding for infrastructure maintenance, care of plant beds, reduced grass cutting, and loss of staff.

The HLF report sets out five key actions for parks to continue providing health and well-being benefits to communities:
• Renewed local authority commitment.
• Establishing new partnerships.
• Getting communities more involved.
• Collecting and sharing data.
• Developing new finance models and rethinking delivery.

The National Friends of Parks and Green Spaces is calling for the next Government in 2015 to hold a national inquiry into the funding and management of UK’s green spaces, and make it a statutory duty for local authorities to monitor and manage these spaces to conform to Green Flag standards, thus ensuring sufficient investment and resources for parks.

Urban parks are vital for physical and mental well-being; and as spaces for people and wildlife, particularly for people without gardens. In the 1980s and 1990s, parks declined due to a lack of adequate maintenance, became under-used and felt less safe, and vandalism became more prevalent. This should not be repeated.

Since then, Lewisham’s parks have seen investments and NFPGS groups work with the Council to ensure that these green spaces are valued. Currently, Lewisham has been awarded Green Flag status for 15 parks as well as Community Green Flag status for several community gardens. However, Lewisham Council has an unenviable task to make significant budget cuts to all of its services including parks.

Should NFPGS groups become more involved in Lewisham and be called upon to help in the parks’ management? Would that be desirable?

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