Parliamentary committee recommends select committee inquiry into parks funding

The Communities and Local Government Committee has recommended a select committee inquiry into parks at a time when funding is being "disproportionately squeezed".

Public parks are under extreme funding pressures
Public parks are under extreme funding pressures

The committee's last report for this Parliament, released this morning, makes clear it was influenced by a submission from The Parks Alliance, the sector body formed to stand up for parks following Horticulture Week's Make Parks a Priority campaign. 

The Make Parks a Priority campaign called for a select committee inquiry into parks in response to the crisis in funding facing the sector. 

Evidence from last year’s Heritage Lottery Fund’s State of UK Public Parks report, written by landscape architect Peter Neal, and the National Trust, was also considered, following a call for evidence by the committee in November on four areas, one of which was was "changes and challenges" affecting local government in 2015.

In its final recommendations to future committee members, the committee wrote:

"As financial pressures on local authorities increase, they are likely to place their focus on statutory services, with discretionary services, such as parks, being increasingly squeezed.

"We received written evidence from the Parks Alliance suggesting that there was now a case for scrutinising the value of parks, and their role in an increasingly urban nation, alongside the challenges they face, and the role of Government.

"We agree that there might be merit in our successors conducting an inquiry into parks. Amongst other matters, such an inquiry could consider how to secure future funding for parks at a time when local authorities find themselves under increasing financial pressure."

Chairman of The Parks Alliance Mark Camley, welcomed the recommendation: "There is a need for greater recognition of the value of parks, and the role they play in an increasingly urban nation, the challenges they face and the role of the Government.

"Parks are facing budget cuts, park management teams are facing staffing declines and 45 per cent of local authorities are considering disposing of some green spaces.

"Parks are highly used and valued across the nation – it is estimated that more than half of the UK population visits their local park once a month or more. Parks are on the brink of crisis and urgent action is needed to protect these valuable community assets.

"The Parks Alliance calls on the committee to pick up its’ own recommendation, and hold an inquiry into parks in the next Parliament."

The Parks Alliance submitted written evidence, which can be viewed on the committee’s inquiry web page.

Committee chair Clive Betts, said: "I hope this report will be useful to our successor Committee both in giving an account of our experience over the last five years, and in suggesting a number of topics our successors may wish to consider. I am pleased that over the Parliament we have produced a series of strong reports grounded in a wide-ranging and robust evidence base."


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