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Minister forms parks action group

The government has announced details of a new parks action group, which will help address some of the issues faced by parks and green spaces across England.

The group will be chaired by local government minister Marcus Jones and include representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Groundwork and Fields in Trust, among other organisations.

According to a government statement, the group will have £500,000 in funding to kick-start their work and the group’s recommendations will be implemented through a cross-government group, bringing together various Whitehall departments, including the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

‘We recognise the value of parks and green spaces to local communities, including reducing loneliness, increasing wellbeing, and revitalising town and city centres,’ said Mr Jones.

‘But we need to do more to make sure future generations are continuing to enjoy their benefits,’ he added.

‘That is why we have announced a new expert-led parks action group to work closely with the sector to find the right solutions.’

New research published yesterday (19 September) by Fields in Trust highlights the direct links between parks and green spaces and health and wellbeing.

The research states the more frequent visits to parks and green spaces, the higher an individual’s wellbeing.

According to the research, visiting a park at least once a week gives an individual between 64% and 73% of the benefits to general health and wellbeing.

It also states families are twice as likely (33%) to be users of parks than non-users (18%).

The research also claims parks have a ‘distinctive and important’ role in the lives of black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, who use these spaces for children’s activities, to meet friends and to have picnics more than white groups.

“In addition, a significantly higher proportion of BAME groups also report using parks and greenspaces for team sports compared to white groups, as well as for personal sport and general relaxation or to pass the time,’ the research states.

Fields in Trust’s chief executive, Helen Griffiths said: ‘Our on-going research recognises how these spaces help to address significant public policy issues including health and wellbeing and community integration.

‘We are looking forward to furthering our work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that we value parks and green spaces and take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.’

In February, the communities and local government select committee called on local authorities to draw up strategic plans, which recognised the value of parks and show how they will use them to tackle wider issues, like healthy lifestyles, social exclusion and flood risks.

The committee’s warned park management budgets have been cut by up to 97% by local authorities as they struggle to deal with increased demand for other services and cuts from central government.

Fields in Trust has also recently opened nominations for its annual awards.

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