The State of the UK’s Public Parks 2016 (published by Heritage Lottery Fund on 7 September 2016) provides a national picture of the state of the UK parks. The report is informed by three UK-wide surveys commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund: a survey of local authority park managers, a survey of parks friends and user groups and a public opinion survey undertaken by BritainThinks.

The report predicts that the quality and condition of many parks will continue to decline if action is not taken now to address this emerging crisis. Key UK findings include:

  • 93% of park managers and 38% of Friends Groups expect their parks to decline in condition over the next 3 years
  • 92% of park managers report cuts to their revenue budgets over the past 3 years
  • 95% of park managers expect their revenue budget to be cut over the next 3 years
  • Over three quarters of local authorities have reduced their park management teams over the past 3 years and expect this to continue over next 3 years
  • 81% of councils lost park management staff and 77% lost operational staff

An overview of the survey indicates that parks and parks services in each country have been affected by the cuts in different ways. With responses from over 70% of Scottish Councils, the survey provides comprehensive intelligence on the position across Scotland. Looking at the condition of parks across the four nations, Scotland reporting the largest change (compared to the 2014 report): the proportion of ‘good’ Scottish parks has fallen by 10% and a small percentage of managers (4%) are now reporting ‘poor’ parks in comparison to none in 2013

  • 50% of Scottish park managers expect their parks to decline over the next 3 years
  • 95% of Scottish Councils reported their parks budget had decreased in the last 3 years (for 59% of Councils the decrease was between 10 and 20%)

Parks matter to people and communities. More than half of the UK population visits their local park at least once of month.

  • 57% of people visit their local parks at least once a month or more often (rising to 61% in urban areas)
  • Parks are very important to families, with 54% of households with children under the age of five using their local parks at least once a week
  • The condition of parks may influence level of use – with 76% of those who consider their local park to be improving using it at least once a month

Partnerships between Councils and Friends Groups are on the increase and communities are increasingly doing more for their parks. Alongside an increase in the number of Friends Groups, there has been a corresponding increase in the level of volunteering with the estimated value of Friends Group volunteering in parks rising to at least £70million per year. But there is a general reluctance amongst communities to take on a more formal responsibility for managing sites, with less than 10% stating they would consider taking on formal and long-term responsibilities for the management and maintenance of their site through full asset transfer.

The report identifies that adequate funding remains the most critical issue and notes that there are no simple solutions.  HLF renew their call for collaborative action across five key areas: (1) continuing local authority leadership, (2) promoting active partnerships, (3) supporting communities to play a more active role, (4) developing new models of management and funding, and (5) compiling, coordinating and updating data.

Download the greenspace scotland press release here 

The full report is available for download here