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PARK CONDITIONS GET WORSE AS FUNDS FALL

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More than a third of parks in Britain are in a state of decline and more than one in 10 councils consider their ope...
More than a third of parks in Britain are in a state of decline and more than one in 10 councils consider their open spaces to be in poor condition.

A study of the state of parks in Britain reveals clear evidence that good parks are getting better, and poor parks worse.

The research, carried out by the Heritage Lottery Fund, DTLR, English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, found evidence of a long-term decline in funding for parks.

Around£630m is spent annually on the upkeep of 27,000 parks, representing a cumulative cut of£1.3bn over the last 20 years, or£126m a year. To rectify this, councils would have to spend, on average, an additional£265,000 a year.

The 2,500 parks of historic interest have suffered particularly badly in the funding decline, the research found, and have seen a significant loss of features.

'The survey supports the view that urban parks in the UK in general are in serious decline,' a summary of the research says.

'The challenge for the future is to arrest the decline and to start a renaissance in open spaces creating attractive, relevant and popular facilities for the enjoyment of all.'

The findings have been compiled in a report by educational charity the Policy Studies Institute.

Author of the report Stewart Harding, who is senior officer at the Countryside Agency and former head of the Urban Parks Programme, said: 'At last we have definitive information showing the dramatic decline in the quality of our parks and, for the first time, a national database of parks which can be built up into a reliable and comprehensive record.

'The record shows, for many parks, the decline in funding and quality continues.

'Reversing this deep-seated trend requires clear leadership from government and decisive action from local authorities, with substantial support from government departments and agencies, as well as the Lottery distributors.'

Park Findings

The research found:

- 39% of parks are in decline

- 13% of councils consider their

open spaces to be in poor condition

- Underspend on parks since 1980 is

estimated at£1.3bn

- Up to 75% of some features have been

lost in historic parks

- A 25% loss in basic visitor facilities

such as toilets and cafes

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