SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- We welcome the Countryside Agency's continued
commitment to country parks, but believe that a financial commitment
is required in order to make its leadership effective. We therefore
recommend that the Countryside Agency reviews its present allocation
of resources to country parks and specifically considers offering
grants towards the repairs which are now becoming necessary. In
addition to the production of best practice guidance, we want
to see the Agency keep the subject under annual or continuing
review (paragraph 22).
- We believe it is essential that adequate research
should be undertaken, and accurate records kept, of matters such
as whether the amount of park, parkland and urban greenspace has
increased or decreased over the last 30 years, what are the cost
implications of maintaining this land, and whether attractive
low cost regimes (such as local or volunteer help) can be used
to look after some of this land, whilst still retaining its value
as a recreational resource (paragraph 29).
- We expect the Government to come up with an
effective research programme for parks as part of its Urban White
Paper. The Committee is also of the view that all local authorities
ought to know the extent of their parks in terms of their number,
size, attributes and facilities. By means of a regular and statistically
valid evaluation of their parks, local authorities should estimate
visitor numbers, and know something of who they are and what they
think of their parks. By these means, a national total of number
of parks can be arrived at and comparisons made (paragraph 30).
- We believe that parks are key features in
the renaissance of our urban areas. They have been instrumental
in the regeneration of New York, Barcelona and Paris. They need
to be recognised and resourced as such by central and local government.
In addition, the Social Exclusion Unit should give a high priority
to making parks attractive places where all the community can
enjoy themselves (paragraph 56).
- We believe that municipal parks should retain
their integrity and historic character. However, if they are to
have an exciting future larger parks should seek to regain their
function as places for entertainment and formal and informal games.
City farms and wildlife areas also have an important role to play
in our towns, especially in the educational sphere. They need
to be looked after and developed alongside municipal parks (paragraph
- Urgent action is needed to find effective
ways of stopping the loss and neglect of park ornaments and ornamental
buildings (paragraph 92).
- Making parks safe, and making them feel safe,
must be a priority for local authorities. Plans for park safety
should be included in all local authority Crime and Disorder Strategies
- If the decline of parks is to be arrested
and reversed it is essential that there should be sufficient high
quality staff. We believe this is an area the Local Government
Association ought to be looking at urgently, and which ultimately
ought to be dealt with by a National Agency (paragraph 113).
- In our report on Local Government Finance
we made a series of recommendations about enabling local councils
to raise a larger proportion of their own revenues rather than
depending on Government grants. If, however, the Government is
determined not to increase local fundraising powers, when determining
grants to local authorities it must take more account of the number
and size of public parks that have to be maintained (paragraph
- Dog walking gives pleasure to many people
and need not be a problem to other people if parks have bins for
dog excrement, regular patrols by park staff, and good education
about the problems (paragraph 122).
- We are appalled by English Heritage's neglect
of parks and other designed landscapes. Its expenditure and commitment
of staff have been derisory. English Heritage must take its responsibility
for parks much more seriously. It ought to survey all municipal
parks over 30 years old to see if they ought to be included on
its register, and make public the reasons for inclusion or exclusion.
Once an agency has been established, it should take over responsibility
for the register. We intend to consider this issue further during
this Parliament (paragraph 127).
- A substantial amount of the New Opportunity
Funds should be spent on parks. The funds should go to small local
parks as well as to major parks (paragraph 133).
- We believe that all involved in setting up
and running the Green Flag scheme for parks are to be congratulated.
Its functions should, in due course, be co-ordinated with the
work of a national agency (paragraph 140).
- Councils need to look very carefully at the
way standalone Trusts are established for the maintenance and
management of parks, and be certain they understand the needs
for insurance, proper accounting and auditing, and are clear on
ethical issues such as jobbery (paragraph 146).
- We also believe the present funding pressures
are unduly influencing some 'Friends' groups to take on roles
which are more onerous than they would wish (paragraph 147).
- We see no point in legislating for a statutory
duty to provide and maintain parks, nor to give statutory protection
to parks (paragraph 149).
- The Committee believes that the number and
quality of parks, and the amount of money expended on them, must
be matters for local decision (paragraph 151).
- We expect the Local Government Association
to give a clear lead on how local park strategies will work under
Best Value. They also need to lead on local involvement and devise
means whereby local users can easily understand strategic documents
and be able to compare the parks in one authority with those in
another authority (paragraph 161).
- In implementing Best Value, we expect all
local authorities to have a Master Plan for parks and greenspace
and to ensure that local people, as well as members of the Council,
have easy access to a regularly updated version of it. Local authorities
should use the Master Plan to show how their parks address the
many cross-cutting issues which both Government and the Local
Government Association are promoting such as sustainable development,
life long learning, crime and disorder and social exclusion. The
public should also have easy access to detailed plans for each
park or small group of greenspaces and know what budget is allocated
to each one. Any nationally set Government service indicators
should also take this into account (paragraph 165).
- It is the Committee's intention to look at
the work of the Audit Commission in the near future. However,
we have to note here that it has not been effective in monitoring
parks. We find it astonishing that the Commission does not know
how many people use parks, and therefore cannot even start to
answer the questions about value for money. Interestingly, it
did not feel it had any evidence to submit to this Inquiry (paragraph
- In monitoring Best Value we expect the Audit
Commission to look at the quality of local information and decision-making
process, as well as customer-use and satisfaction of parks (paragraph
- We believe that there is a good case for the
establishment of a new Agency, which should be known as 'The Urban
Parks and Greenspaces Agency.' We believe the Government should
make a commitment to such an Agency in its forthcoming Urban White
Paper (paragraph 175).
- The first stage should be a government announcement
in its urban white paper heralding the establishment of an Urban
Parks and Greenspaces Agency. The second
stage would be to set up an Urban Parks and Greenspaces Review
Committee to do the preparatory work and produce a report.
The third stage would be that the Government then establishes
the Agency, taking into account the Review Committee Report (paragraph
- We do not believe primary legislation should,
or needs to, set out details of how an Agency would work. In legislation
during this coming session, the Government should take powers
to establish the principle. Once the Review Committee has produced
a report, the Agency could be established using regulation conferred
by that legislation. We believe an evolutionary approach such
as this is essential because parks need help now (paragraph 180).
- We call on the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
when looking at any new green tax designed to change people's
patterns of consumption, to consider earmarking a substantial
sum so that a major investment can take place in our parks. Such
a programme would also offer good employment and training opportunities
- While we do not believe in earmarking government
finance to local authorities, we do believe the Government ought
to help local authorities find ways to reverse cutbacks in park
maintenance. It should recognise:
- that the amount of greenspace most local authorities
have to manage has increased very substantially in the last 30
- that funding has not kept pace with these
- that if our urban areas are to be attractive
places, parks and greenspaces must be well maintained; and
- that since an increasing proportion of the
population will be living in towns and cities, parks will become
even more important (paragraph 185).