ODPM advice to sell off land condemned by parks experts

The government's suggestion to sell unaffordable parks has been met with a wave of criticism.

Leading parks consultants have attacked the Government for its “idiotic” view that local authorities should sell off parks they can’t afford to fund. Local authorities should close parks if they cannot afford to maintain them, ODPM permanent secretary Peter Housden told a public accounts committee hearing on the National Audit Office’s urban green space report (HW, 9 March). Housden said: “Some may be trying to maintain too many green spaces. They might do better to rationalise. It might be better having four excellent parks than five or six [poorer ones].” Parks Agency director Dr Stewart Harding said most district level councils have 60 to 160 spaces to manage, meaning each would have to close between 10 and 30, or around 6,000 nationally. He added: “After years of asking, we at last know the Government’s solution to the underfunding of parks: simply close them down. Well done, ODPM. Another idiotic statement from your department.” Parks consultant Bob Ivison said the public would hate the idea and councils must think more creatively: “[Housden] needs to talk to people in the communities. They would not want to see any parks closed, least of all to be developed for something they didn’t want. CABE Space acting head of policy Bruce McVean said the few local authorities with robust green space strategies will have identified “wasted space” they could sell for development but that councils should be careful of selling off land because “when it’s gone, it’s gone”.

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