Park sell off plans abandoned by Knowsley Council

The new leader of Knowsley Council has announced he is to scrap plans to sell off 10% of the borough’s green spaces.

Cllr Graham Morgan, who took on the role last month, said he intends to drop the proposals to sell 10% of the borough’s parks and set up a charitable trust to manage them in the future.

The council had previously agreed to work on proposals to sell 17 parkland sites for development in order to raise enough money to create a £40 million endowment.

In November last year, the council’s cabinet agreed to work on proposals to establish a charitable trust to manage the Borough’s green spaces from April 2019, which is when council funding for the service was due to run out.

In the face of continued Government cuts to Knowsley Council’s funding, the aim of the work was to protect the remaining 90% of the borough’s parkland ‘forever’.

The proposals, which came as a result of a £1.3m funding shortfall in the parks budget, attracted substantial feedback from the local community.

‘Upon taking over as Leader of this council a couple of weeks ago, I made it clear that one of my first priorities would be to look at the future of our parks – which are undoubtedly one of Knowsley’s greatest assets,’ said Cllr Morgan.

‘The message from local communities has been loud and clear on this issue – they value our parks too much to lose them,’ he added.

‘With this in mind, I am going to take forward a proposal to reinstate the £1.3 million of council funding for the parks and open spaces budget from April 2019.  We will still have to make savings to balance our budget, and that is not going to be easy, but we know that our residents want us to look elsewhere.’

He added: ‘By 2020, we will have had £100m ripped from our Council budget by successive governments since 2010.  The pressure which local authorities and particularly areas like Knowsley are under is incredible.  We have to provide services for our residents with only half of the money we need to pay for those services.

‘The financial reality is that, once we reinstate the funding to maintain our parks, my colleagues and I will have to find this money from elsewhere.  Therefore, in the coming months, we will be reviewing all aspects of our budget to identify options to generate income or make more savings.  I can’t pretend that this will be an easy task but it is one that I will not shy away from and one that I will work with the people of Knowsley to achieve.’

A report published last month by the charity Fields in Trust claimed Britain’s parks and green spaces provide people with more than £34 billion of health and wellbeing benefits.

‘We couldn’t agree more with Cllr Morgan,’ Fields in Trust’s chief executive, Helen Griffiths told New Start.

‘We at Fields in Trust know a little about the value of parks and green spaces too – our recent research “Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces” identifies that they contribute a measurable £34billion each year across the UK in community health and wellbeing value – a contribution which far outweighs the short-term cost of maintenance or a one-time capital receipt from the sale of land,’ added Ms Griffiths.

‘Fields in Trust legally protects 0ver 2,700 parks and green spaces across the UK to ensure they will always be available for community use. As this attempt in Knowsley shows, any decision by a public body to remove a park or green space will likely cost more money than is saved. In health alone parks and green spaces saved the NHS at least £111 million per year through prevented GP visits – enough to pay for more than 3,500 nurses.

‘The evidence is now clear: green spaces are good, they do good and they need to be protected for good. That’s why as part of our new strategy Fields in Trust is committing itself to protecting more green spaces, so that people up and down our country, both now and in the future, can continue to benefit from them. We hope to have an opportunity to work with Knowsley Council and ensure their parks and green spaces are protected as valuable public assets in perpetuity.’

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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