BALI welcomes select committee focus on health and safety in parks

Deteriorating health and safety in our parks is a key concern to grounds maintenance contractors, BALI chief executive Wayne Grills has said.

Responding to the Communities and Local Government (CLG) select committee report following its inquiry into public parks, Wayne Grills said the institute welcomed the recognition the CLG Committee placed on parks.

"The committee has clearly sought and carefully considered contributions from the broad range of stakeholders on the value of parks and the many challenges facing the parks sector," he said.

The report recognised and praised the role of volunteers who, along with councils, had "mitigated the effect of budget reductions in the short term" but said "they must not be taken for granted".

After hearing from witnesses that volunteering in parks was under threat from the professionals who supported them, the committee recommended that councils "must give sufficient priority to supporting, building relationships with and coordinating volunteers" when planning their parks services, or taking decisions about funding allocations.

Grills welcomed this and said "solutions involving volunteers should be carefully implemented, managed and monitored".

He added: "The health and safety implications from poor maintenance are a major concern for local authorities and for BALI and its members operating in the parks sector.

"The report clearly acknowledges that whilst volunteer groups make an important contribution to trying to hold back the deterioration of some public parks, there are limitations to relying on volunteers. BALI believes that solutions involving volunteers should be carefully implemented, managed and monitored."

A panel of local authority witnesses were asked about health and safety concerns during the inquiry by committee member and MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali, whose constituent Alexia Walenkaki died after poorly-maintained play equipment in Mile End Park collapsed on her.

Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment Lisa Trickett, responded that it was "a major concern". Both she and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council's green space manager Ian Walmsley, told committee members that they had or were replacing play equipment with "naturalistic" play features because they could not afford the cost of maintenance. Walmsley also told MPs that, because he had to cut park ranger roles to save money, Stockport had to become less risk-averse regarding volunteers and to a certain extent "let them get on with it".

BALI also welcomed the recommendation by the committee that parks minister Andrew Percy should work with local authorities and consultation, development and implementation of green space strategies and that he, and the cross-departmental group he pledged to establish during the inquiry, reports back annually to Parliament.

He added that BALI members were keen to work with local or national Governemnt "to help develop and drive forward viable and sustainable park maintenance strategies".

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