Data brings crisis to the fore

It is almost exactly a year since the Parks Alliance was formed, bringing key professional bodies within the parks and allied sectors together to lobby, engage and communicate on behalf of embattled urban parks and green spaces.

The alliance grew out of Horticulture Week's Make Parks a Priority campaign launched to draw attention to the crisis facing parks from swingeing budget cuts, and the fear they would re-enter the spiral of decline last seen in the 1980s.

That the alliance came together as swiftly as it did reflected the fact professionals working in the sector could see where things were going as parks, unprotected by any statutory requirement to maintain them, fell victim to disproportionate funding cuts. The challenge has been getting that message across to those outside the parks world, a task hampered by the paucity of national data, but thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund's efforts, a big chunk of that gap has been plugged giving us a clearer picture of developments across the UK.

The data brings to the fore the universality of the risks facing parks across the UK following a decline in public spending which the HLF describes as "potentially greater and more rapid than that faced during the late 1970s to early 1990s".

The loss of skilled parks management staff across the UK (cited by 81 per cent of councils), the discovery of growing cuts to capital budgets (63 per cent) and confirmation of yet more cuts to revenue budgets to come (87 per cent), are among the key concerns highlighted in the findings.

Most alarming of all is the finding that nearly half of councils are now considering selling off or otherwise disposing of the management of some of the green spaces under their control.


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