Civic pride charity says public believe open spaces are at risk

A new charity launched this week has found that up to 78 per cent of people feel their local open space could be at risk.

The charity, Civic Voice, is concerned that green spaces are among local places that could be threatened by issues such as development or a lack of investment.

It launched a campaign called "Love Local" at the weekend, aiming to make places more "attractive, distinctive, and enjoyable".

Civic Voice director Tony Burton said: "We will lobby at a local and national level, beginning with local communities to harness the wider public."

One of the key elements of the campaign will be to preserve open spaces after the charity's research revealed a "pervasive fear" of losing green spaces and gardens to development.

Civic Voice is led by the Civic Society Initiative and is funded by the National Trust following the closure of the Civic Trust in 2009.

The campaign chimes with a report published by CABE last month, which detailed that towns and cities needed to focus on improving "ordinary places". It advocated funding for public engagement.

Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook has also raised concerns about the loss of green space for development. "We believe open spaces are at threat, due to being inundated with queries," she said.

Ashbrook added that it was possible to get open spaces designated for protection as a village green, if the public has used the land for more than 20 years.

Birmingham Open Spaces Forum vice chair Sarah Royal said there were "many sites" in Birmingham that she feared could be at risk.

But a lack of investment is as critical as the onset of development according to parks consultants. Sid Sullivan said: "There is no communication between the council and the public. This directly correlates with the recognised dangers of underperforming in public spaces. The authorities are not learning fast enough, to be brutally honest."

Parks Agency director Stewart Harding acknowledged Government obstacles: "The only parks that improve are ones with huge cash injections. People don't get an input into park financing. Parks identified are normally in deprived poorer areas and that sums up the problem."

Civic Voice has launched a digital scheme for the public to photograph areas that make them feel proud of where they live and places at risk. Chair Paula Ridley said: "We recognise that local communities are ready to take a stronger role in shaping the future of their areas.

- For further details, visit www.civicvoice.org.uk.


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