The eagerly awaited report from the Select Committee Parks Inquiry in England was published on Saturday 11 February. It warns that parks are at a tipping point and face a period of decline with potentially severe consequences unless their vital contribution to areas such as public health, community integration and climate change mitigation is recognised. The report clearly recognises the value of parks and the challenges they face, but many colleagues in England are disappointed that the recommendations don’t go far enough.
“Parks are treasured public assets… but they are at a tipping point, and if we are to prevent a period of decline with potentially severe consequences then action must be taken. The Government has a leadership and coordination role to play and volunteers do fantastic work in the sector, but the primary responsibility lies with local authorities.
Clive Betts, CLG Select Committee Chair
Many of those who submitted evidence (including over 322,000 people who signed the 38 Degrees petition) called for a statutory duty but the Committee “were not persuaded that a statutory duty on local authorities to provide and maintain parks, which could be burdensome and complex, would achieve the intended outcomes”. The Committee said “we believe that other mechanisms are more likely to achieve the outcomes we all want to see – greater recognition of the value and benefits of parks, and appropriate prioritisation in local authority planning and funding decisions”.
The report recommends that the Parks Minister establishes a cross-departmental group, park managers' forum(s) and 'online hub', and issues guidance to local authorities encouraging them to work collaboratively with Health and Wellbeing Boards, and other relevant bodies, to prepare and publish joint parks and greenspace strategies. The Committee note that fundamental service transformation may be required and calls on the Minister to work with local authorities that are pioneering alternative management models and funding arrangements.
The role of greenspace scotland and the [Scottish] Park Managers Forum is highlighted in the report and the Committee calls on the Minister to work “with the Local Government Association to develop and implement options for establishing and supporting national or regional park manager forums in England, learning from the approach taken in Scotland”.
Julie Procter, Chief Executive of greenspace scotland commented:
“Although the Inquiry was about parks in England, colleagues in Scotland have been following with interest and, together with the Scottish Park Managers Forum, we submitted written evidence to the Committee. We are encouraged to see a strong statement on the importance and value of parks for our health, our communities and our environment. Parks are a cost-effective way of tacking many of the challenges facing society today.
We were pleased to see our work in Scotland, and particularly the Park Managers Forum, highlighted in the report and would welcome the opportunity to share experience and learning as the English Parks Minister and Department of Communities and Local Government respond to the Committee’s recommendations.
Across Britain, there is now a need for focused and concerted action, coupled with strong leadership, adequate resources and investment, to ensure our parks are fit for the 21st century and continue to provide a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”
Read full Committee report
Read the greenspace scotland and Park Managers Forum submission
Read MyParkScotland blog
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