Public parks are at risk of falling into neglect

Public parks are at risk of falling into neglect, as funding to maintain them comes under pressure, says a report by a committee of MPs. The squeeze has resulted in reduced opening hours, the removal of play equipment, toilets closing and more litter, MPs said. They urged councils to find new ways to fund and manage parks.

The Local Government Association said councils have to balance spending on parks against other priorities.

The report by the Commons Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee argued housing demand was also putting parks at risk, with new homes “nibbling away” at green spaces in some areas.

Unless parks were recognised as “much more than just grass and tulips”, there was a risk of turning the clock back to an era of neglect of 20 to 30 years ago, the MPs warned.

Local authorities have no statutory duty to fund and maintain public parks, and a 2014 report by the Heritage Lottery Fund found 86% of park managers had seen cuts to their budgets since 2010.

The UK has about 27,000 public parks attracting 2.6 billion visits a year.

The MPs argued that parks play an important role by:

  • Helping to integrate communities
  • Tackling climate change
  • Preventing flooding
  • Reducing air pollution exposure
  • Boosting health
  • Providing leisure amenities

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