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Save our parks and green spaces

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Charter for Parks, launch, Parks: austerity has seen ‘disastrous reductions in staffing and maintenance’.

On 21 June, the first day of summer, a ‘Charter for Parks’ was launched and the UK’s political leaders asked to champion parks and local public green spaces across the UK to halt – and reverse – their decline.

The ‘Charter for Parks’ is backed by a coalition of 12 national organisations: Greenspace Scotland, Keep Britain Tidy, Fields in Trust, Friends of the Earth, Llais y Goedwig (the voice of community woodlands in Wales), The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, The Parks Alliance, The Parks Agency, The Gardens Trust, Unison and 38 Degrees.

It calls on Prime Minister Theresa May and First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and Arlene Foster to take action to safeguard spaces that are vital for so many communities and individuals.

The Charter calls on the UK’s four political leaders to:

Endorse a legal duty for all public green space to be managed to a good standard;

Ensure adequate long-term resources for maintenance, management and improvements;

Recognise the right of every citizen to have access within walking distance to a good-quality public green space;

Celebrate the central role well-run parks play in our neighbourhoods for all sections of our communities;

Embed effective protection from inappropriate development or use, or loss of any part of our parks; and

Encourage and enable community involvement and empowerment of local people and park users.

Groups and organisations throughout the UK are being urged to sign up to the new Charter  throughout the summer via the Charter for Parks website, and follow events on Twitter or the Parks Charter facebook page.

Dave Morris, chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces (NFPGS), explained: “Time is running out for local parks across the UK. Continuous budget cuts to staffing and maintenance are leaving them vulnerable to neglect and deterioration, or even sell-offs.

“Many people think local councils are legally responsible for maintaining local parks and open spaces but unfortunately, unlike waste collection, that’s not the case yet.

“Our Parks Charter calls on the leaders of all four home nations to take action to ensure these essential and highly-popular public resources are properly funded, managed, maintained, and protected for current and future generations.

“As the voice of the movement of more than 6,000 local Friends of Parks Groups throughout the UK we recognise the immense contribution that these community volunteers are playing. Now it’s time for government to show an equal commitment to act.

“The public will not forgive political leaders who let the sun set on the UK’s parks.”

In England the charter was handed to a representative of the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government outside the Houses of Parliament by NFPGS Chair Dave Morris, David Lambert of The Gardens Trust, and a teacher and pupils of The Willow School in Tottenham.

The Year 5 pupils are regular users of Lordship Rec, where Dave Morris is chair of his local Friends Group. And their teacher said: “We see the local park as fundamental to the school and the children. We use it as a resource for teaching, for community events, sports and family socialising all year round.

“It is especially important for us as a state school. Many of our families do not have private gardens, the park is absolutely essential.”

In Scotland, representatives from Friends of Parks Groups in Edinburgh gathered in the green space beside the Scottish Parliament to launch the Charter for Parks.

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “As the operators of the national standard for parks and green spaces – the Green Flag Award – we know how important the provision of these quality spaces is to local communities and the health, prosperity and wellbeing of our nation.”

Julie Proctor, chief executive of Greenspace Scotland, said: “Scotland’s parks are one of our national treasures, but they face an increasingly uncertain future.

“Like many public services, they have been feeling the pinch; and with no legal duty to maintain parks, too often they are seen as an easy budget cut.

“Parks really are our natural health service, our children’s outdoor classrooms, our cities’ green lungs – essential to our quality of life, our sense of place and community.

“Yet we are rapidly approaching a tipping point leading to the downward spiral of reduced maintenance, poorer quality greenspaces and lower levels of use.

“We call on politicians, organisations and park users to stand up for parks and support the Charter.”

And Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, said: “Our research demonstrates that parks and green spaces have proven physical and mental health benefits. These are valuable places; places where we can all move, breathe, run and play.

“We need to champion and support these precious spaces by protecting them for people to enjoy in perpetuity. Because once lost, they are lost for ever.”

David Lambert, Trustee at The Gardens Trust, said: “Our heritage of public parks is a national treasure but as a discretionary service, parks remain first in line for budget cuts, and eight years of austerity have seen disastrous reductions in staffing and maintenance.

“We need central government to recognise the scale of the problem and the risk to health that poses, with all the consequent human and financial cost.”

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