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The future condition and health of UK’s public parks are at significant risk

07 September 2016

The future condition and health of UK’s public parks are at significant risk

Latest survey carried out by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) shows there is a danger that parks and green spaces 'may fall back to a state of decline and neglect'.

The HLF 's second report on the State of UK Public Parks was published today, based on a UK-wide survey that asked local authority land managers, park friends and members of the public about their local parks and green space. The survey gives us a national picture of the state of the nation's parks and the impact of austerity on them.

Keep Britain Tidy, which manages the Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces, welcomed the report, the results of which are in line with the environmental charity's own findings. With proposed continued budget reductions for park management and maintenance, and the significant loss of skilled staff, Keep Britain Tidy believes parks are at risk of decline across the UK.

This decline is already being seen in North-West, with a 22% reduction in the number of parks and green spaces achieving the Green Flag Award standard since 2011, despite the fact that the overall number of places achieving the standard has risen by 29% across the UK.

Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Odgen-Newton said: "We are starting to see a decline in the quality of some parks, which mirrors the findings of the HLF report. While it is encouraging to see that the number of people visiting and using our parks and green space has increased, the quality of these spaces needs to be maintained to a good level, meeting the Green Flag Award criteria, to ensure this trend continues.

"The decline in the North-West is particularly concerning and we would like to see as many parks as possible across the UK maintained to at least the standard required of the Green Flag Award."

In 2010 Natural England commissioned a survey which found that for every £1 spent on health walk schemes, the NHS could save £7. To enable the UK public to do this, they need good quality park and green space to use to help improve and maintain their own health.

Keep Britain Tidy believes that quality parks and spaces should be seen as a "must have" if we are to ensure we have vibrant, economically viable and healthy communities, solutions must be found to ensure the decline is halted, we all have a role to play in fighting for the future of our parks.

The Green Flag Award helps to support local authorities and other land managers to provide  quality green spaces, through a framework which supports and enables good management and maintenance. The Awards are judged by an army of more than 700 green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement. The judges bring their expertise to sites, allowing for continual improvement within their financial restrains.

The Communities and Local Government Committee launched an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns that their existence is under threat. People can submit their thoughts, opinions and provide evidence as to why our parks are important by 30 September 2016. You can find out more and send your submission here.