15th February 2017
National land management charity the Land Trust has welcomed the Communities and Local Government Committee’s report on its public parks inquiry, noting that cross-sector collaboration, inter-departmental working within the government, and long-term strategy creation, are key to the sustainability of the country’s parks and green spaces.
The Land Trust gave oral evidence into the inquiry last November, emphasising the need to recognise the value that parks and green spaces bring to the health and vitality of society, and highlighting the success of its own innovative funding arrangements for long-term sustainable management.
The full report, not only incorporates official evidence given, but also illustrates the significant levels of interest and passion from the general public, highlights the importance of green spaces to public health and wellbeing, local communities, and the challenges being faced by local authorities who face ever-tightening budgets.
The CLG Committee warns that the impacts of reduced budgets on local authorities to simply plan and maintain, let alone enhance parks, are real threats, and must be better recognised.
The committee calls for strong political leadership to ensure more collaboration between government departments, for local authorities to work with Health and Wellbeing boards to produce green space strategies, and for parks to be better prioritised.
Euan Hall, CEO of the Land Trust, said:
“This inquiry has been a really positive experience for everyone concerned, bringing together a wealth of passion, experience and information about our local parks. It has clearly shown how parks and green spaces serve and benefit all aspects of society, and therefore how they should be supported and valued in an appropriate, joined-up way.
As a responsible public parks manager, set up to manage green spaces on behalf of and with communities, the Land Trust is not tied to the same budgetary constraints as local authorities and therefore can see the real value that our green spaces generate as a result of long term funding.”
The Land Trust is concerned that the report does not go far enough when exploring the funding solutions. Parks, and therefore the health and wellbeing of communities, will suffer if there is insufficient baseline funding in place to manage and maintain them in the long term. It urges local authorities to explore all the options for identifying long term funding for its parks.
The Land Trust feels that the report lays pressure on local authorities to solve this crisis by relying on community groups. Whilst community volunteers provide a valuable contribution, in the Land Trust’s experience, this works best where there is structured ownership, strategic park management and sustainable ring-fenced funding, which can then enable communities to bring parks to life with their own initiatives.
The Land Trust’s model enables parks to be retained for free public benefit through innovative approaches to funding, but working in partnership with local authorities, communities and private organisation to create valuable, sustainable resources. This removes the strain on the public purse and enables communities to have emotional ownership without the pressure of what is involved in legal ownership.
“Having given oral evidence on our sustainable funding models, we’re pleased that the Committee advises Government and local authorities to consider alternative financial arrangements, but this needs to be taken seriously.
“There is too much focus on what parks cost to maintain and not enough focus on the benefits and values they generate, which ultimately can contribute to public savings elsewhere. We must ensure that parks remain high on the agenda and that the need for a long-term, sustainable strategy is met, both for individual parks and on a national basis.”
The Land Trust is working with a number of local authorities to identify solutions for their parks, where the local authorities retain the legal ownership, but lease them long term to the Land Trust who then work in collaboration with the local communities and partners to maintain and manage them for local benefit.
The Land Trust is engaging with Defra and the Natural Capital Committee in relation to the 25 year environment plan, alternative management models and using parks to improve health and wellbeing.
It is also continuing to communicate that investing long term to manage green spaces well has significant positive impacts on all aspects of society and the economy. Its recently published report – the Hidden Values of our Green Spaces reinforces this message, that the long term management of green spaces can generate millions of pounds worth of benefits to society each year, with one of its parks increasing in value by £2 million in 6 years, (in natural capital terms).
“The Land Trust will be working hard to ensure public parks remain a priority and will continue to champion our funding and management models as examples of best practice that ensure the longevity and openness of parks in perpetuity.”
Further information on the public parks inquiry can be found at: www.parliament.uk/clg
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