Think tank, Policy Exchange, have just published a report on the importance of public open space and the particular threats in the face of repeated Council cut backs.
“Our report highlights the importance of parks and other urban green spaces to the social and economic wellbeing of the country. Providing free outdoor space for exercise, socialising and relaxation, parks can benefit both physical and mental health. However, on average local authority spending on open spaces was cut by 10.5% between 2010/11 and 2012/13 and there is no ring-fence protecting the budget spent on maintaining green spaces. Combined with the increasing demand for housing and other urban development there is a risk that the UK’s parks will deteriorate or become spaces that are the preserve of the wealthy.”
Commentary in The Independent
Parks are for rich and poor alike
The think tank Policy Exchange published a report yesterday calling for more value to be placed on our public parks, including the idea of council-tax rebates for residents who volunteer as rangers or litter wardens, as well as “ecotherapy” for overweight and unfit patients who would attend fitness classes in their local park, part-funded by the NHS.
Both are attractive proposals designed to ensure that our public spaces are kept in good repair. But a third proposal – to impose a levy on people who live near parks – would surely only lead to them becoming exclusive playgrounds of the middle class.
In most cities, the greatest parks are bordered by both rich and poor areas and should remain free to everyone. Conservative-controlled Wandsworth council in south London has repeatedly tried to impose a charge on a local playground, despite widespread public anger. Parklife should be a right, not a privilege.