UK's cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warn

Slashed budgets risk the nation’s 27,000 parks becoming no-go areas, with negative effects on park-goers’ health and the environment

The UK’s cash-starved parks are at a tipping point of decline, MPs have warned, with severe impacts expected for park-goers’ health, community cohesion and the environment.

The nation’s 27,000 parks are highly valued by their 37 million regular users, but funding has plummeted in recent years as local authority budgets have been slashed. An inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs found that the huge benefits that flow from green spaces are now at the point of being lost.

“Parks are treasured public assets, as the overwhelming response to our inquiry demonstrates, but they are at a tipping point, and if we are to prevent a period of decline with potentially severe consequences then action must be taken,” said Clive Betts, who chairs the communities and local government committee.

Over 92% of park budgets have been cut by local authorities, which have suffered an overall 27% budget cut in real terms since 2010-11. Some city councils, such as Newcastle’s, have cut park funds by 97%.

“Areas of parks are being downgraded and left to grow wild,” said Betts, while football pitches are being left unplayable and flower beds left unplanted. The committee’s report also found evidence of broken playground equipment going unrepaired and litter, vandalism and other crime rising.

Park managers warned in September that the neglect of parks was set to plunge them “into the disaster crisis of the 1980s and 1990s when they became no-go areas full of syringes and no park rangers.”

The report concludes that ministers and local authorities must find new ways to run parks that involve all the organisations that benefit from them, for example using funds aimed at cutting obesity to maintain parks as places to exercise.

Read more here.