13th January, 2017
We have released our response to the parks inquiry report, published by the Communities and Local Government Committee.
As part of its inquiry, the Committee examined the impact of reduced local authority budgets on open spaces and considered concerns that the existence of public parks is under threat.
Philip Bowsher, Head of Landscape Strategy & Development, commented:
“We are pleased to see that the Communities and Local Government Committee recognise that parks matter for many social, cultural, environmental and economic reasons and that access to sufficient, well-maintained parks and green spaces is important for people’s health and well-being.
“We would wish to see every town and city in the UK benefiting from a network of well-maintained parks and green spaces such as we have under our care in Milton Keynes. We feel it is right that the Committee has recognised and is drawing attention to the fact that many of the nation’s parks are, in the words of the Committee, facing a period of decline with severe consequences.
“We have seen and heard about the challenges facing local authorities across the country in providing park services whilst facing very restricted budget settlements and high demands from other services, many of which local authorities have a statutory duty to provide, which is not the case for park services.
“We have been approached by many local authority park managers from across the country in recent years wishing to find out about The Parks Trust, how we were set up, how we operate and how we are funded through our endowed assets, which enable us to be entirely self-financed with no draw at all upon local authority funds.
“It was in this context that our Chief Executive David Foster was invited to speak at one of the Communities and Local Government Committee’s hearings, at which he advocated the benefits of the Parks Trust’s model of being an independent charitable trust with the sole purpose of looking after parks for the benefit of the communities that live near, use and rely on their parks and green spaces.
“We welcome the Committee’s recommendations to Government to tackle the decline in parks across the country and to get parks on a more secure footing. We are pleased to see that the Committee recognised the value of the parks trust model such as ours and that they have recommended that the Government should work with local authorities that are pioneering alternative management models or funding arrangements, which may include establishment of and transfer of parks and assets to parks trusts.
“However, we were disappointed that the Committee did not make a stronger recommendation that the Government should provide financial support and encouragement to help local authorities to set up their own parks trusts.
“We will watch the Government’s response to the CLG Committee’s report with interest and will continue to advocate the Parks Trust model as means of securing a sustainable future for parks and green spaces across the UK.”