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Dec
25

In austerity Britain, people need parks | Letters

Funding for public parks is being cut off just when they are needed more than ever to combat the stress of surviving in austerity Britain, says the Parks Agency

The quietly announced news that the Heritage Lottery Fund is closing its Parks for People funding programme comes as a shock. It should be a matter of huge concern, not only to the 90% of families with children who visit their local park at least once a month, but to all who care about the wellbeing of our towns and cities. Since it was set up in 1996, the programme has transformed hundreds of urban parks from no-go areas to thriving community assets, paying not just for repairs to bandstands, lakes, paths, gates and other features but also for new cafes, toilets, play areas and funding for new staff.

Austerity has hit parks departments particularly hard. As a non-statutory service, parks have been in the frontline of the cuts since 2010, with budgets falling on average by 40% – and in some cases by far more. Newcastle upon Tyne has seen a 90% fall, resulting in unprecedented plans to transfer the city’s parks to a charitable trust. Elsewhere, councils such as Knowsley are selling parks for development to fund future maintenance. Users have seen the impact in terms of loss of staff, reduced tidiness and increases in antisocial behaviour. Politicians, of course, have not.

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