Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths has welcomed the announcement yesterday of the Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry into the impact of reduced local authority budgets on open spaces. She said:
“People assume that their local park will always be there but this isn't necessarily the case. We know reductions in public service budgets, particularly local authority expenditure, has put green spaces at risk, reduced maintenance and increased the likelihood of playing fields and parks being lost to development.
“Our recent research findings demonstrate that nearly all respondents (95%) agree that parks and play areas should be protected from development and 82 per cent feel so strongly that they would be motivated to campaign against a park loss. Two thirds (69%) state that the loss of parks would be detrimental to children's development and almost half (48%) of respondents say using their local park helps them to feel healthier, with 70% of 16 to 24 year olds also feeling less stressed as a result of having access to green space. Spending quality time with the family and feeling part of a community were also identified as important.
“The non-statutory status of parks means no national audit of green space is kept making it difficult to track the losses of these vital spaces. In the autumn Fields in Trust will be launching our own register of sites at risk across the UK to better quantify the one in five people who told us that their local park or green space has been under threat of being lost. We will collate public knowledge of the parks, playgrounds and recreation spaces that are at risk of being lost forever and encourage people to support us in our efforts to preserve these spaces in perpetuity.
“It is impossible to properly consider this new call for evidence in isolation from other central Government policies. Last December the Government launched “Sporting Future” a renewed “strategy for a more active nation”, we believe recognition needs to be given to the vitally important role of parks and informal spaces for sport and play and the consequent increase in health and activity levels achieved. Local parks, playgrounds and other recreational spaces provide opportunities for families and the wider community to participate in informal activities but their contribution to physical health, mental wellbeing and community cohesion are woefully underrepresented.
"Fields in Trust is a national charity founded in 1925 to improve the long-term protection, provision and quality of outdoor recreational spaces for all communities in the UK. We currently protect over 2,600 sites, approximately 30,000 acres of greenspace in perpetuity. We look forward to sharing our insights and analysis with the Committee's inquiry.”
Photograph shows MacRosty Park in Perth and Kinross, protected with Fields in Trust in perpetuity as a Queen Elizabeth Field