A recent meeting of friends of parks group leaders revealed concerns over the future funding and maintenance of our green public spaces.
These concerns stem from the cuts councils are being forced to make as they cover the cost of tackling Covid-19 and as the UK economy stumbles.
So, the release of a timely new report from Friends of the Earth has been welcomed by many. It exposes how widespread green space deprivation is, how it is an issue of racial injustice as well as concern from a public health perspective, and what needs to be done to fix the problem. Here's what the authors say:
Recognition of the value and the paucity of good quality green spaces and parks existed before 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In 2018, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, speaking as then Minister for Parks and Green Spaces, said:
Our parks are precious, and I want to improve access to them for everyone - including the young, isolated and the vulnerable.
The pandemic lockdown has brought both the role and the lack of good quality green space to the fore, as many people discovered local green spaces and parks for the first time or made more frequent use of them.
The closure of some parks to avoid overcrowding compounded pressures on people’s sense of wellbeing and ability to cope, further highlighting deficiencies in green space provision and access.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick was prompted to declare:
While the virus does not discriminate, we know that the lockdown is much harder for people who don’t have a lot of living space, a garden, or anywhere for their children to run around. People need parks.
There are also signs that parts of the government understand the pivotal role of green spaces perhaps more now than ever. As well as the comment “people need parks” in response to the pandemic, the government’s promise to “build back greener and better” speaks to an ambition that everyone has access to good quality parks and green spaces.
The full report is available to download as a PDF document: England's Green Space Gap