‘Help ease parks funding crisis’, says Leeds academic

Roundhay Park, one of Leeds' much-loved green spaces.
Roundhay Park, one of Leeds' much-loved green spaces.
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A Leeds academic has warned of a lack of awareness of the funding threat to parks ahead of a conference to debate the future of the country’s green spaces.

Dr Anna Barker, from Leeds University’s Future Prospects of Urban Parks project, today called for a review of “how parks can be put on a sustainable footing” as the budgets that fund them come under strain from cash-strapped councils.

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She is part of a coalition of park professionals and researchers warning that parks and green spaces in towns and cities are at risk of falling deeper into neglect unless the Government seizes a leading role to safeguard their future

Councils are not legally obliged to maintain parks and so in an age of austerity, park budgets have been targeted for cutbacks, says the coalition, comprising community charity Groundwork, park managers and academics.

Dr Barker said: “MPs reported earlier in the year that parks are at a tipping point.

“There needs to be an urgent look at how parks can be put on a sustainable footing. This is not something Government can fix on its own – but there needs to be leadership from Whitehall.

“One way of doing that is to establish a national agency which would work with park managers and the public to ensure the parks legacy is sustained for future generations.”

Dr Barker said Leeds University’s own study of 6,432 people in Leeds found that 91 per cent had used parks in the past year. She said Leeds Council had cut its parks and countryside budget by more than 50 per cent in recent years but that there was a lack of awareness of such funding threats. Leeds University hosts a Westminster conference to debate the future of parks on Thursday, in collaboration with The Parks Alliance and Groundwork.

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