Parks need a new model of funding to survive, report warns

The future of the UK’s public parks and green spaces is under threat unless a new model of funding that doesn’t rely on charitable donations is created, a report has warned.

Launched today by the University of Leeds, Charitable Giving to Parks and Green Spaces argues that charitable donations have an ‘important but limited role’ in bridging the funding gap for parks and questions whether they ‘can or should’ be a primary source of income amid ongoing government cuts.

Over the summer months, cash-strapped councils have been accused of over-exploiting public parks by hiring them out for music festivals.

However, many councils have faced a 50% cut to its parks budget since 2010 and have been forced to diversify by opening cafés, shops and visitor attractions, events, concessions and business sponsorship.

In 2017, the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee said that Britain’s 27,000 urban parks were at a ‘tipping point’ due to a lack of funding.

Lead researcher Dr Anna Barker said: ‘There needs to be an informed public debate on the funding of parks, including the role of charitable giving and the urgent need for donations if parks are to survive deep cuts.’

The report’s authors also argue that charitable donation initiatives are operating in the context of a long-standing belief that parks are a public service, managed by local authorities and funded through taxation, yet local authorities have no statutory duty to provide and maintain public parks.

Dr Anna Barker, added: ‘Public parks are vital features of our towns and cities that provide numerous benefits for people, communities and the environment.

‘But park managers require new and diverse sources of external income if parks are to survive ongoing cuts, a lack of statutory protection, and no cross-funding from other public services that benefit from the contribution parks make to wellbeing, notably health.’

In September, Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, wrote for NewStart about what more can be done to protect city parks from increased commercialisation during the summer festival season.

Read her article here.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter


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