With so many urgent priorities for local councils – transport, roads, elderly care, housing – there is little wonder the niceties of community living like regularly mown grass, parks and gardens, take a back seat.
A coalition comprising community charity Groundwork, park managers and academics, points out that councils are not legally obliged to maintain parks and that in the era of austerity, park budgets are ripe for pruning.
Fresh air and exercise is still one of the best (and cheapest) ways to keep fit and healthy. A study in Leeds found 91 per cent had used parks in the past year and yet Leeds Council cut its parks and countryside budget by over half in recent years. The Government says it’s up to local councils to prioritise their spending. But the coalition says that’s not good enough. Dr Anna Barker, from Leeds University’s future Prospects of Urban Parks project, says whilst Government cannot fix it on its own, it needs to take more leadership.
So who should pay? These havens of playspace have been around since the Victorian era – spectacular places in many cases, paid for by the industrial giants of the day.
So why can’t we see today’s equivalent captains of industry stepping up to help build, and maintain, parks and gardens? A healthier population would cut spending elsewhere so should be a win win.