The £1m project aims to reclaim neighbourhood green spaces which have been blighted by fly-tipping or fear of crime, leaving families too intimidated to use them. A survey carried out by the government's green spaces urban taskforce found that fear of bullying and concerns about suspicious strangers loitering in parks put children off going out to play.
'Having somewhere for kids to let off steam and play is hugely important to parents', said Yvette Cooper, junior minister in the ODPM, which will unveil details of the fund this week. The grants will be used for projects such as clearing stolen or dumped cars from parks and rebuilding play equipment. The minister is drawing up plans which could mean the return of a new breed of 'parkie' - the once common figure of the park warden, most of whom were phased out 20 years ago in council cost-cutting.
In the US, park rangers have proved successful in reclaiming public spaces that had been overrun by muggers and drug dealers in violent areas.