The need for green space to be included in councils' plans has been acknowledged by the Government.
The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has reassured The Parks Alliance that the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) can be spent on both capital and revenue for parks and open spaces.
The Parks Alliance was given this reassurance at its meeting with the DCLG earlier this summer. The Government also published revised guidelines in June that clearly state the levy can be spent on green space.
Previously, Government told councils that the CIL, which allows local authorities to charge on new developments in their areas, could be used to support development by funding community "infrastructures". Unfortunately, the technical wording of the CIL guidelines made it difficult for parks professionals to interpret exactly what was included.
Specifically, The Parks Alliance wanted reassurance that the CIL could be spent on the maintenance of parks as well as new parks projects because section 106 tariffs, which local authorities were able to use on green-space maintenance, are currently being scaled back.
Deputy chairman Sue Ireland said: "Establishing that the CIL can provide capital and revenue for parks was one of the early tasks that members gave the board. So we are extremely grateful that we have got that recognition from the DCLG. For us it's important to be able to say that parks funding can and should be part of that plan."
She added: "The key is for our members to ensure that we are continuing to promote this point at every opportunity. It's enlightening that many local authorities do understand this but not all do so it's important that our members should have an ability to demonstrate that.
"We will want to talk to the minister for parks and Local Government Association representatives about what more we can do - encouraging and supporting them in what's going to be an incredibly difficult time.
"The population in London is going to grow by two million over the next decade or so. That will put more pressure on these facilities. If you are increasing the density of the population around a park the impact should be supported by CIL."
Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "We are now acknowledged as part of the infrastructure that communities need to prosper and have good health. That's a really important step."
Julia Thrift, head of projects and events at the Town & Country Planning Association, which manages the Green Infrastructure Partnership, said she would like to see CIL funding used to create endowments to ensure future park income.
Planning guidance - Flexibility in local areas
Revised Government planning guidance states: "The levy can be used to fund a wide range of infrastructure ... this definition allows the levy to be used to fund a very broad range of facilities such as play areas, parks and green spaces, cultural and sports facilities, academies and free schools, district heating schemes and police stations and other community safety facilities. This flexibility gives local areas the opportunity to choose what infrastructure they need to deliver their relevant plan."
The fine print specifically includes the word "maintenance", while regulation 59(1) clarifies: "A charging authority must apply CIL to funding (the provision, improvement replacement, operation or maintenance of) infrastructure to support the development of its area."