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Lottery sounds alarm over condition of parks

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Many councils have only a limited understanding of their park services, the Heritage Lottery Fund has warned.

It said more than 800 parks had benefitted from £850m of funding since the National Lottery started more than 20 years ago and use by the public was increasing, but there was a continuing decline in their condition as council budget cuts bit.

In the State of UK Public Parks 2016 report, the fund said the benefits of its investment could be lost if declining standards and closure of facilities continued to worsen.

The fund said leadership by councils - as owner of most parks - was needed to ensure their continued quality but new models of management and funding should be developed.

It noted: “Robust data is at the heart of all good planning and decision making. Whilst there have been some improvements in the collection of information…many local authorities still have a limited understating of the detailed workings of their parks service.”

The fund surveyed park managers in 193 councils across the UK. It found 92% of park managers had seen their revenue budget cut since 2013, and 95% anticipated cuts over the coming three years. Only 53% felt their parks were in good condition.

Half reported that parks and green spaces had been sold or had their management transferred to others over the past three years, while 22.5% said some of their parks’ funding came from external sources such as ticketed events.

Local Government Association culture, tourism and sport board chair Ian Stephens (Ind) said: “Ensuring parks are maintained to the highest standard is paramount.

“However, over the previous parliament central government funding for councils was reduced by 40% in real terms. Despite this difficult backdrop, councils are doing everything they can to provide the best possible park services.”

 

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