Over the last few months the Communities and Local Government Committee has been reviewing the future of Public Parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns surrounding their future. Fields in Trust were one of 379 organisations and individuals to submit evidence to the Inquiry. You can read our submission online. Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths appeared on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to respond to the report and champion our parks and playing fields.
The Inquiry Report, published today, warns that parks face a period of decline from their current tipping point with potentially severe consequences unless their vital contribution to areas such as public health, community integration and climate change mitigation is recognised. The Report highlights considerable challenges including reduced council spending, and parks management budget cuts of up to 97 per cent, the need for parks to compete with other services for funding and planning policy not giving them enough weight, particularly as a result of pressures to increase housing supply. The Committee calls on councils to publish strategic plans, setting out how parks will be managed to promote healthy lifestyles, tackle social exclusion and manage flood risk.
Fields in Trust Chief Executive, Helen Griffiths, comments of the Report findings and recommendations:
"I welcome the Communities and Local Government Committee report into the future of parks and particularly the recommendation that their wider value should be recognised, beyond leisure and recreation, to include promoting healthy lifestyles and tackling social exclusion; the CLG Committee suggest parks should maximise their contribution to wider local authority agendas. As an advocate for parks, playing fields and recreation grounds Fields in Trust has been calling for just such a re-valuing of greenspace, to take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.
"Fields in Trust believe we should re-value our green spaces as a resource which contributes to public health, mental wellbeing and community cohesion, not simply viewing parks as a drain on council finances for upkeep and we welcome the Committee’s recognition of that fact. Now that this value is acknowledged it is important that local authorities are supported to ensure green spaces are protected from development and maintained for public recreation for future generations.
"As the Housing White Paper, published this week has shown - there is pressure on land across the UK for housing and commercial development; existing planning legislation alone is not sufficient to prevent the loss of parks and playing fields. Some landowners and local authorities have worked with Fields in Trust to independently secure their green spaces; ensuring accessible public recreational land is protected forever. Fields in Trust welcome the CLG Committee recommendation that councils should publish a strategy to demonstrate the value of parks - but without the protection of this land there is no guarantee that the contribution green spaces make to health and wellbeing can be sustained."
For further information:
- Watch Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths interviewed on BBC Breakfast and Sky News:
Helen Griffiths is Fields in Trust's Chief Executive and is an experienced and knowledgeable commentator on issues related to parks, playing fields and recreational spaces. Follow Helen on Twitter @hegriffiths.
If you would like to arrange an interview with a Fields in Trust spokesperson, please get in touch.
About Fields in Trust
Fields in Trust is a national charity that operates throughout the UK to safeguard recreational spaces and campaign for better statutory protection for all kinds of outdoor sites.
Founded in 1925 as the National Playing Fields Association by King George V, their mission is the same now and as it was then: to ensure that everyone - young or old, able-bodied or disabled and wherever they live - should have access to free, local outdoor space for sport, play and recreation. These spaces are vital to building happy and healthy communities and sadly continue to be threatened by all kinds of development.