Parks minister pledges cross-Government group

Parks minister Andrew Percy has pledged to set up a cross-Government group of policymakers and stakeholders to look at the recommendations of the parks inquiry, which will be published in the new year.

Percy: promise to champion parks across departments - image: ParliamentLive.TV
Percy: promise to champion parks across departments - image: ParliamentLive.TV

Percy made the commitment when speaking to the final Communities & Local Government (CLG) committee at the latest parks inquiry hearing, adding that the body could resemble the Future High Streets Forum.

Committee chairman Clive Betts MP and Rushanara Ali MP questioned CLG minister Percy's "passion" for the role, but Percy said he is the first person he knows of who has added the parks minister title to the CLG website and added: "I do appreciate the value of parks."

He also said he will champion parks across Government departments and seek to be a "convenor for sharing best practice" to local authorities, after Betts quoted the Town & Country Planning Authority saying parks policy is currently a "muddle" with confused responsibility across Government departments.

Percy said local authority spending on parks has gone up from 0.71 per cent of overall expenditure in 2010-11 to 0.73 per cent in 2015-16, but admitted this is from a "shrinking pot". He said it is up to local authorities how they spend their money and ruled out statutory status but when questioned by Melanie Onn MP he said pocket parks are an example of how Government has provided green space in deprived areas and the 87 created could be added to with possible new funding in the future.

He also said in the next fortnight the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) will announce a new "small" funding stream that councils could use for parks. Percy said he wants councils to appoint parks "champions", but he will not specifically include parks in devolved councils' agreements.

Percy told Ali he will look at parks' safety after the MP questioned him about the death of five-year-old Alexia Walenkaki when play equipment collapsed on her in Mile End Park in July 2015. Percy added that he wants more parks to enter the Keep Britain Tidy-organised Green Flag Awards scheme after Kevin Hollinrake MP said only six per cent of parks are involved.

He said he has met with the Parks Alliance and the Heritage Lottery Fund in the last month. The session focussed on what the DCLG is doing to support and protect parks throughout the UK and what role the minister plays in those initiatives.

The committee asked about leadership and co-ordination for parks planning and management at the national and local levels as well as about the impact of devolution on parks. Questioned about the need to balance building more homes and protecting green spaces, the minister said the National Planning Policy Framework is "robust" in dealing with that requirement.


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