In September, Communities and Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones MP, launched a new Parks Action Group to help England’s public parks and green spaces meet the needs of communities now and in the future. The launch is against the backdrop of reducing parks budgets and follows a Government instigated public inquiry into the value of parks and impact of ongoing budget cuts; APSE produced one of almost 400 written responses to the inquiry.
The Parks Action Group (PAG) was created in response to the inquiry. The Group brings together experts from the world of horticulture, leisure, heritage and tourism, and will include, alongside APSE, a number of other related bodies including Heritage Lottery Fund, Groundwork, The Parks Alliance, LGA, The National Federation of Parks and Greenspaces, The National Trust, Natural England, and Fields In Trust. PAG will be tasked with bringing forward proposals to address some of the issues faced by public parks and other green spaces across England. To support the Group, government is providing £500,000 funding to kick start their work.
In launching the new group, the Minister stressed that the Government recognised that parks have an intrinsic value to local communities, including reducing loneliness, increasing wellbeing, and revitalising town and city centres. However, the Minister has warned that the future of parks needs to be secured to ensure that future generations continue to enjoy their benefits.
A number of initiatives have already been announced by government including publication of the ‘Sporting future: a new strategy for an active nation’ paper in 2015 which set out the importance of sport and physical activity with a specific focus on the themes of central government, local government and outdoor recreation. This was followed in February 2016 with the ‘Pocket Parks’ initiative which provided over £1 million to transform 87 small undeveloped or derelict areas into green spaces for communities.
APSE has welcomed the news and has reiterated its view that parks are a core part of local neighbourhood services providing an accessible environment for local communities to enjoy all of the benefits which parks bring including access to safe play spaces, green exercise, community meeting points and a focus for events and activities. In recent years, APSE has also advocated parks as an effective means to deal with climate change issues and localised environmental considerations such as mitigating against damage caused to local areas by flooding, and providing much needed green canopies in urban landscapes.
APSE’s work in the PAG will be fed back to APSE members and as always we would really welcome hearing your views on parks. APSE’S Chief Executive, Paul O’Brien, will be representing APSE on the PAG, ensuring that APSE continues to be a key voice in the debate on the future of parks.
We know that councils will want to see health and wellbeing boards engaged and greater emphasis placed on the skill needs of future parks managers alongside the developments in areas like accounting for natural capital. APSE’s resources including our advisory groups, seminars, benchmarking and web resources will all be useful to deploy as we make the case for parks.
To find out more contact Wayne Priestley, Principal Advisor for Parks and Open Spaces, at firstname.lastname@example.org