Government defends its track record on supporting parks

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee has today published correspondence from the Government responding to a series of questions raised by the Committee on public parks, inequality of access to green space, and the funding of public parks and green spaces.

The letter from Dehenna Davison MP, Minister for Levelling-Up, Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, includes information relating to spending on parks, monitoring access to green spaces, and the long-term funding for parks.

In 2017 the Committee for Housing, Communities and Local Government made 17 recommendations in total and came to some broader conclusions. At that time, the Ministry (as it was) responded with an assessment of those recommendations and a commitment to carry forward many of them.

“Since 2017 conditions have changed dramatically, as have citizens’ relationships with their neighbourhoods, in particular parks and green infrastructure,” says the Minister in the letter.

“Given the impact of the COVID[1]19 pandemic, over the last two years the emphasis of the Government’s work on parks was focused on public safety, including to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and now that we are living with COVID-19 on the role that parks have to play in recovery – such as providing mental and physical health benefits including combatting obesity, and providing access to the outdoors.

“Some of the recommendations accepted in 2017 have been superseded by policy arrangements pertaining to comparable goals that better reflect the reality facing parks and park users today.”

The Minister then goes on to detail the scope of the support the Government has provided for parks and green spaces. The correspondence can be found here:

Clive Betts, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee said: “Parks should be a resource for all, making a vital contribution to our physical and mental health and serving a range of significant community benefits. The primary responsibility for maintaining our public parks lies with local councils, often supported by fantastic volunteer and civil society groups. The Government also has an important leadership and coordination role to play.

“I’m sure those citizens and community groups who do such positive work for our parks and green spaces will have an interest in this Ministerial correspondence and the Government’s assessment of their own efforts in supporting the sector”.

On Wednesday 20 July 2022, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee held an evidence session to follow up on the report, examining a range of issues relating to public parks, including park usage and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on parks.

At the evidence session, the Committee heard from a range of groups, including the Local Government Association, the National Trust, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Natural England, the government's adviser for the natural environment in England, and also charities and champions of friends’ groups.

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