Leader: Time to extol parks' benefits once more

When the Government replaces its performance targets for local authorities next month with a new system of national indicators, green space managers will need to work harder than ever at translating the benefits of parks into the language of the policy makers' favourite themes.

They include stronger and safer communities, children and young people, adult health and well-being, local economy and environmental sustainability.

No prizes for guessing what's missing from the indicators that will define local authority objectives - albeit with individual councils' input - until the next tranche of local government reforms. As green space specialists have pointed out, there is no specific provision for parks and green spaces in any of the 198 indicators on which local authority performance will be judged (see p17). And that is despite the talk from politicians in recent years concerning the importance of the public realm.

So once again, it will be down to parks people to spell out how critical parks are to the new priorities of the policy makers. The good news is that while there is much to be done, green space managers in possession of a green space strategy will be in a much better position to tackle the challenges.

As a poll at the recent CABE Space leaders' programme revealed, while many parks services have yet to complete their strategies, most either have one or a work in progress - and this, say green space watchers, could prove key to ensuring parks teams secure the best-possible funding they can under the new regime.

The hope is that green space strategies will go on to form part of each local authority area's Local Development Framework, which in turn will help to inform which targets the local authority agrees to meet under its Local Area Agreement.

One thing is for sure - there is everything to play for in terms of pitching the benefits of quality green space. Business development manager for parks charity GreenSpace David Tibbatts says there is a very strong argument for parks in local area agreements because they can hit every theme that covers the national indicators.

So, if you are one of the authorities that hasn't got your green space strategy in place yet, it's time to get writing.

"A good park that is a focal point for communities should bring people together and add to community cohesion." And in other areas such as health, there are already parks teams that have already made funding headway through making the relevant connections.

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