Link to wider aims is key to funds battle

Leading green space advocates this week are urging fellow professionals to stress the value of parks services to preventative health and other key community priorities, as the final battles over funding begin next month (see p3).

With that approach in mind, they would also do well to dust off a Conservative Party report into the well-being of children in the UK - launched by none other than David Cameron - which makes a powerful case for the provision of the kind of safe, "protected" outdoor space that both parents and children feel confident enough to use.

The 2008 report followed the shocking revelation that Britain had come bottom of a UNICEF league table ranking the well-being of children in 21 developed countries. A loss of confidence in outdoor space, among other things, was "significantly harming the childhoods of too many children", said chairman of the review, David Willetts MP - now Cameron's universities minister.

While commending the Labour Government's plans to rebuild or renew 3,500 playgrounds, the report warned that: "If those playgrounds are not protected, the risks to children could increase, not decrease." It went so far as to suggest that "modern day park rangers" could be one of the solutions to increasing adult supervision of public spaces.

This is, of course, old news to the green space sector, which has been putting the case for more visible parks staff ever since CABE Space's brilliant Parkforce campaign hammered home the vital role played by park rangers in restoring New York's parks and green spaces after years of decline.

The problem is, as Alan Barber noted in HW earlier this year, that while it is great to see the direct link being made in the report between social and environmental ills, "and an acknowledgement that our streets and green spaces have become less child-friendly", no link is made to the obvious cause - declining maintenance budgets.

As always, it will be down to the industry's green space managers to make that link. Making it in the context of the objectives of statutory services is, however, more likely to lead to success.

kate.lowe@haymarket.com

www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/leader for recent leaders.


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