Taking the parks inquiry forward

By giving their emphatic agreement with the sector that public parks are "at a tipping point" in danger of "severe consequences", the authors of the House of Commons Communities & Local Government committee parks inquiry report have firmly placed the parks crisis on the parliamentary agenda (see p9).

There is no question that this couldn't have happened without the active engagement of tens of thousands of parks professionals, friends group members and industry bodies who have taken part in surveys, voted in polls and submitted evidence.

While the parks inquiry report has hit a raw nerve garnering widespread media coverage of the parks crisis, several action points the sector had hoped to see included in recommendations have failed to materialise. The case for a national centre of excellence to collect and share data, best practice and innovation was powerfully made by parks experts in oral evidence at the House of Commons last year - and its omission in the committee's report is disappointing.

But we must recognise this as the starting point of a parliamentary journey that will bring further opportunities for lobbying from the sector. As parks consultant Peter Neal argues, a recommendation that the parks minister issue guidance to councils to work with health and well-being boards to create joint parks and green space strategies - with monitoring by a cross-departmental group tasked with reporting annually to Parliament - has the potential to be "transformational" for the sector.

Again he argues there is no reason why the cross-parliamentary group couldn't create a task force from across the sector to support the work recommended by the committee - from looking into alternative funding models and providing sector co-ordination to monitoring the distribution of green space among communities. It's now down to the sector and its representatives to make this happen.

KATE LOWE Editor kate.lowe@haymarket.com

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