The report flags up the condition, funding and future of the UK's public parks and the latest document comes two years after the HLF's first report was hailed as a ground-breaking document. That first report revealed fears that many parks could become no-go areas or be sold off, with nearly nine-tenths of parks managers reporting cuts to revenue budgets. Nearly half of local authorities were considering selling parks and green spaces or transferring management to others. More than four-fifths of council parks departments had lost skilled managers.
Local authorities, in particular park managers, are now being asked to complete a second survey to see how parks are suffering after two more years of crippling austerity cuts. Results are due to be published this summer. The State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk? document was welcomed by the parks sector.
The HLF commissioned the report from landscape consultant Peter Neal and Community First Partnership run by director Ian Baggott. Neal said: "The 2014 report was highly regarded and gained a lot of exposure. It's clear parks and local authorities are facing increasing challenges brought about by austerity. We need to take stock again and get a clearer picture with a focus on staffing and skills, which we think are being hit significantly.
"Approaches and innovation in generating extra sources of income are important and there's new thinking and processes emerging, which are really important to capture. But we also need to flag up threats of asset transfer and the new models and organisations taking part in the management."
Neal added: "It's really important to get a good level of returns from parks managers but also friends groups and community organisations, who were really helpful last time. There are positive aspects emerging of how authorities are tackling the challenges of austerity, but just this week the furore over stories of Bristol (Stoke Gifford Council) wanting to charge runners shows how hard it is to find the resources to continue supporting our much used and loved parks."
HLF head of landscapes and natural heritage Drew Bennellick said: "The first report was widely used to extol the value of parks, in large part thanks to those completing the survey. We want to know how parks have fared since then. Has funding stabilised? Have new income streams helped address challenges? Or have the difficulties become more acute since our last survey? We want to hear from as many park managers as possible to help us get a full and accurate picture of the state of our parks."
To date, more than £776m raised by National Lottery players has been invested in parks since 1996. The 2014 report is available at www.hlf.org.uk/state-uk-public-parks. The current survey is online at www.stateofukparks.org.uk and the HLF is also surveying park friends and community groups. The deadline for responses to both was today (29 April) but has now been extended to 6 May.