Saturday, 10 January 2015

Save our Parks

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PARKS AND GREEN SPACESThe umbrella organisation for the UK's Friends of Parks Forums and the Friends Groups movement 

Please forward to all your members, and via social media...

A new year's resolution everyone can make..Save and Protect UK ParksPlease join the effort by widely promoting the 'Save Our Parks' UK petition:'s make the protection and improvement of our open spaces an issue in the May 2015 General Election.
And make a date in your diary for 2015's Love Parks Week - 24 July to 2 August

See below for examples of the growing underfunding crisis across the UK and what we can all do about it.

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Save our Parks Liverpool
You may be aware of the high profile campaign in Liverpool to save parks and greenspaces in the face of sell offs to developers. It would be useful to link to national and regional campaigns in a more formal way. The most high profile campaigns in Liverpool are Sefton Park Meadows, Woolton Woods, and Walton Hall Park. Save Sefton Park Meadows campaign, of which I am vice chair, has been working for almost 2 years to save this greenspace from Redrow Homes development. A planning application will be lodged shortly. 

As other sites have come under threat from developers and identified as potential sites in the emerging Liverpool Local Plan,  a new Greenspaces Alliance has formed in the city by 10 groups. Green Party, Lib Dems and independent councillors also support this - we only have 10 in total, with a predominantly Labour Council and Labour elected Mayor. 

Save Sefton Park Meadows supports your Save Our Parks alliance and supporters have signed the petition and encouraged others to do. If the Alliance in Liverpool can maybe campaign under a wider objective to gain government commitment to parks at the forthcoming election, this would gain wide support here I am sure. 

Janet Pell
Vice chair, Save Sefton Park Meadows:

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Next round of budget cuts raises serious fear of deterioration in state of UK parks
Horticulture Week - 28 November 2014, by Sarah Cosgrove
London's councillors are seriously concerned about paying for parks in the short term despite them being central to saving money long term, according to London Councils' transport and environment committee chair.
Speaking ahead of the chancellor's autumn statement on 3 December, Julian Bell, also leader of the London Borough of Ealing, said he does not know how local authorities will "square the circle" of further budget cuts over the next five years - after already cutting "low-hanging fruit" - without seriously damaging services.

Despite the economy improving, wages and tax revenues remain low and UK borrowing is higher than last year, leaving chancellor George Osborne little room for pre-election giveaways.

Ealing needs to cut £96m from its budget over the next four years, adding to £87m already cut over the past four years. Only £56m of new cuts have been identified in the draft budget so far.

"It's pretty harsh," said Bell. "We're looking the graph of doom in the face. In Ealing, we've had a 30 per cent birth rate increase at the same time as an increase in the number of older people."

The "graph of doom" originated in Barnet in 2012. It showed the council in danger of running out of money for everything except core services by 2020. The "nub of the problem" is adult social care, which is 50 per cent of the average London borough's budget, leaving less for non-statutory services.

It is a picture mirrored in urban centres across the UK. Walsall, for example, must find savings of £104m by 2019, with £362,708 to go from green spaces next year alone.

Bell said Ealing has "taken a fair amount out already" from its park budgets but it was inevitable there would be more. Encouraging volunteering and revenue raising are also key, he added. Cabinet members were also due to vote on a proposal to turn one of three council golf courses into a Christmas tree nursery and mountain bike park producing 4,800 trees a year that would save £60,000 a year and earn an estimated £60,000 to £80,000 in net revenue. "We're trying to be more creative but there's only so much you can do," said Bell. "If you take too much management out you lose that experience. There's a real danger that parks will deteriorate and that's the real worry. I'm not sure how it's going to look. It's a very worrying time of change."

Yet Bell believes parks are a weapon in tackling the adult social care spend. "Parks and green spaces are critical to having a healthy population. We are all struggling but we all recognise that a healthy population is going to be more independent and less reliant on social services."

Case study - Impact of cuts to 2015-16 parks budgets in Walsall
Allotments   Fifty per cent grants cut. Green spaces reduction including deletion of posts, cessation of events, loss of Green Flag status, reduced maintenance.
Grounds maintenance   Staff cut at arboretum, bedding plants ceased across 75 sites, grass cutting reduced from 14- to 20-day cycle.
Tree management/urban forestry   Number of posts cut from nine to seven, management programme reduced from four years to six years.
Green spaces and countryside management   Five posts removed and events reduced to make saving of £362,708 in 2015-16.

The council said the result would be "less attractive parks and community events for improving the health and well-being for older people; an increased risk of antisocial behaviour in parks; a decrease in education programmes; the borough will be less floral and aesthetically pleasing; and potential (although managed) impact on reactive maintenance for storm damage". 

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Act for nature
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds:
The ‘Nature and Wellbeing Act’ Green Paper sets out the evidence which shows just how much people need nature. It details the ambitious package of measures to turn around the decline in our natural environment and contribute to many of our most pressing social and political objectives.
We want an Act which puts our need for nature at the heart of decision-making, for our own mental and physical health, and the health of our economy. We all know how much nature matters to us, not just for the moments of wonder with which it enhances our lives, but because it underpins every aspect of our existence – it is our foundation. But across our society and economy it is still a foundation that is largely invisible and unaccounted-for. We know nature is under great pressure as we take from it to fuel our economy without giving back, and many of the worrying effects were outlined in last year’s State of Nature report produced by 25 conservation organisations. 

Beyond this our health service is in crisis and one in four of us will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in our lives. Nature offers immense benefits to our mental and physical health, and this needs recognition. In 2011, this Government laid out solutions to these heath, economic and environmental issues in their paper ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’, but policies alone aren’t able to deliver. Our existing environment laws are strong, and they provide protection for our wildlife, but now we need to go further – we need recovery.

So together with The Wildlife Trusts we’re calling for a Nature and Wellbeing Act in England, to create the right laws now to bring about the recovery of nature for future generations. As the 2015 General Election approaches, now is our moment to influence their promises. We're calling for the next Government to do something that lasts longer than five years, something that sets the tone for the next generation, and for generations after that.

How you can help
We need nature. Join us, and ask your MP if their Party will Act for Nature, and commit to a Nature and Wellbeing Act in their election manifesto.

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Petition against plans to privatise parks and waste services attracts hundreds of signatures ahead of public meeting24 Nov 2014 - Wimbledon Guardian
A petition against plans to privatise [Merton's] parks and waste management has attracted hundreds of signatures ahead of a public meeting. Conservative councillor David Dean has organised a debate after strong public reaction to Merton Councils 32m cost-cutting plans which could see parks management and waste collection privatised. A petition entitled Save Merton's Parks has 451 signatures calling for the council to, among other things, retain control over the parks services locally, and for improvements to either maintain or improve the service. 

The SLWP will procure the contract for parks and waste management. Merton Conservatives have called in the decision made by the cabinet on Monday, November 10 which means it will be open to scrutiny at a meeting sometime soon. The plans are to set up an integrated contract for waste collection, street cleaning, winter maintenance, commercial waste and vehicle maintenance. 

Sutton and Merton councils could work together on grounds maintenance, including parks, arboriculture and grass verges as part of the South London Waste Partnership. The proposals are part of moves to fill a projected council budget gap of 32m over the next four years. 

Jane Plant of the Merton Tree Warden group said: "Something as major as this should be widely consulted on. Time should be given to get it right if it does go ahead. I am very concerned that it is going ahead. The council is throwing parks management away with waste and litter." 

Dan Goode, founder of litter campaign group Merton Matters, said: "The idea that volunteers will pick up the slack from a company protecting its own profits is laughable. Parks should be secured for future generations - this doesnt make any sense at all." 

Merton Council cabinet member for environmental cleanliness and parking Councillor Judy Saunders said: The SLWP has huge expertise and experience in procuring contracts and will get the best deal for all the partnership boroughs and the tax-payer too. The partnership will commission environmental services specialists from 2017 to carry out waste collections and keep our parks clean. We are having to look at different ways of delivering quality services that are good value to the tax-payer. The government is continuing to reduce its funding to local authorities meaning were going to have to save 32m over the next four years."  

Coun Dean said: "Merton Councils Labour politicians are making a monumental mistake in hiving off the boroughs park maintenance to SLWP. Clearly, this organisation has no experience and will make a complete hash of one of the stand-out reasons for living in Merton; our gorgeous parks. The fact that nearly 500 have signed a petition in six days shows the strength of feeling of residents." 

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Register to protect vital open spaces all across the UK

From sports pitches to children’s playgrounds, bicycle trails to country parks Fields In Trust make sure that all kinds of outdoor spaces are safeguarded forever - 2,443 so far! Find out some key ways they can help you protect your green space:

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The Government is made to recognise that they must act to protect libraries under threat due to Government underfunding of public services - but what about our parks?
Mr Edward Vaizey (The Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy) said: " Today (19th December) I am publishing the Independent Library Report and depositing a copy in the House Library. This has been undertaken by William Sieghart and I would like to state on record my particular thanks to him and his expert panel for their endeavour and ambition to create a positive action plan for libraries. I am also very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this important work.

We welcome the panel's recommendations, which are being considered in detail. I am taking the immediate first step in partnership with local government to set up the joint taskforce to advise on implementation of the recommendations which will be chaired by Dr Paul Blantern, Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council. He will be supported by a range of experts with an interest in libraries. This taskforce will report both to Ministers and the Local Government Association and the first meeting is due to take place in Spring 2015.

I whole-heartedly support the public library service which has been making a vital contribution to the knowledge, delight and quality of life of communities in every part of England for more than 150 years. They are a cherished part of our cultural heritage, and a key player in our future. "

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Promote the 'Save Our Parks' petition - let's make the protection and improvement of our open spaces an issue in the May 2015 General Election
The Government's cuts to Local Authorities for our local public services, combined with the lack of statutory protection for open spaces, are causing the most of the problems we are facing. So please sign and promote the UK 'Save Our Parks' petition to step up the pressure on the Government and all political parties to take seriously the future funding and protection of our vital green spaces. 

1. Sign the petition: 
2. Spread the news via Twitter: @LoveParks_Week  #LoveParks
3. Spread the news via Facebook: - and: 
4. Refer to the Parks Petition webpage: - the page includes a Sign Up Sheet and leaflets to distribute

And please don't forget to support your local green space Friends Group or help set up one for any green space without one!

best wishes

Dave Morris
Campaigns Officer 
National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

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