CABE Space meeting reveals barriers to parks' progress

Well over half of parks services have yet to complete green-space strategies, one of the most high-profile gatherings of designers and horticultural leaders has found.

Last week's CABE Space leaders' programme polled 91 delegates and found around 17 local authorities had no strategy, while 33 were drawing them up.

Some 20 local authorities said their parks were still fighting for adequate resources, while six felt parks were seen as a "Cinderella service or even an asset drain".

CABE Space director Sarah Gaventa said: "We are a sector that is not hugged and loved enough: we don't get enough money and are not appreciated."

The event featured luminary speakers like John Crompton, distinguished professor in recreation, park and tourism sciences at Texas A&M University, who insisted the scientific case for parks had been made: "There's a huge body of science. Critics who say there is only anecdotal evidence to support the potential contribution of parks are wrong. It's as strong as economists arguing the benefits of tourism and building development."

Local Government Association programme director for campaigns and media Ed Welsh said research suggested local authorities that did well on performance indicators were still seen badly by the public because they failed to shout about their successes. "You work hard on your parks and open spaces and people like them. But it doesn't mean they think the council is making your community any better. We are starting to see a relationship between overall satisfaction and residents who are well informed."

Delegates suggested councils flag up prominent logos on overalls and kit, while clauses in outsourcing contracts should insist maintenance staff wear council logos.

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