IoH boss takes parks cause to David Cameron

Institute of Horticulture president Sue Minter tackles prime minister as parks friends federation spreads campaign word.

Institute of Horticulture president Sue Minter has thrown her support behind Horticulture Week's Make Parks a Priority campaign in a strongly worded letter to prime minister David Cameron.

She said the near-completion of the Olympic Park - the largest urban park created this century - was ironic given the poor state of many of our existing parks. This decline was "unprecedented" since the 1970s and 1880s thanks to a halving of funding to the green sector to £700m, she pointed out.

Minter, who is writing to Cameron in support of HW's call for a parliamentary inquiry into urban parks, said skills shortages caused by lack of apprenticeships were compounded by an exodus of managers. This made it all-but impossible to coordinate or motivate volunteer and friends' groups.

HW launched the campaign earlier this month, prompted by mounting fears that swingeing cuts were driving skills from the sector and threatening to spark a spiral of decline.

The campaign has won support in parliament, where concerned MPs have launched an early day motion - EDM 219: Reduction in Funding for Urban Parks - backing the call for an inquiry into urban parks.

Minter wrote: "The reason I am addressing this to you, prime minister, is that you made a commitment to the importance of a National Happiness Index' to partner and parallel the calculation of GDP. You may have forgotten that number one on the list for respondents was a walk in the local park."

She continued: "Where has the commitment gone to that being a safe, clean park with excellent horticulture, much used and loved by the local community?

"So we also appeal for a restoration of an ambassador for the maintenance of urban parks at the CLG for there has been no one to speak up for them since the abolition of CABE Space."

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Parks & Green Spaces is writing to all parks friends groups and user groups across the UK asking them to help secure an inquiry by urging their local MPs to sign EDM 219.

In an email to members, vice-chair Dave Morris said: "As local park users we know all too well the damage caused by cuts in the 1980s and the inevitable and decline in green spaces. Many groups have spent over a decade trying to return them to the condition that communities deserve."

He ended: "We fully support this campaign and urge others to do the same."

For full information on the campaign and how to get involved go to www.horticultureweek.co.uk/makeparksapriority.


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