Fiona’s Late Summer Blog 2016

2016 Fiona's Late Summer Blog

Although it is now September and we have had a lot of heavy rain recently, there are still plenty of colourful late summer herbaceous borders to appreciate, including in our local parks. Whether or not you are a frequent visitor, public parks are for many the most local and easily accessible form of designed landscape. The challenges they face and the importance of protecting them is highlighted by The Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s intention to focus on the impact of reduced local authority budgets on parks and consider concerns that their existence is under threat.
The consultation offers the opportunity to make a written submission on the following issues:
• Who uses parks and open spaces, how often and for what
• The contribution of parks to the health and well-being of communities
• The impact of reductions in local authority budgets on parks
• What the administrative status of parks should be in light of declining local authority resources for non-statutory services
• How new and existing parks can best be supported
• What additional or alternative funding is available and what scope is there for local authorities to generate revenue from park users
• What the advantages and disadvantages are of other management models, such as privatisation, outsourcing or mutualisation.

BGT was initially alerted to this consultation by the Reading Civic Society, who have contacted their national body, Civic Voice to ensure that others are aware and can respond appropriately. Our own new umbrella organisation, The Gardens Trust (formed in July 2015 by the merger of The Garden History Society and The Association of Gardens Trusts), is also using this important issue as an opportunity for a campaign to raise the profile and importance of designed landscapes as civic amenities and in terms of the economic and social benefits which they bring. David Lambert, who raised the plight of public parks in the 1990s and is now one of TGT’s Trustees is looking at this with Dr Katy Layton-Jones who is updating previous research carried out by the Parks Agency.
Berkshire Gardens Trust is keeping in touch with TGT on this matter, so please let us have any thoughts you may have on the issues listed above. For example, you may have views on initiatives such as the use of public parks for entertainment which, while undoubtedly raising awareness and revenues, can be challenging to manage given the huge numbers which attend events at such venues.
The Select Committee is also keen to encourage as many people as possible to contribute to the inquiry. If you wish to contribute to the inquiry as an individual, you can do so via an online survey at
http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/HO3PU/. The deadline is 30th September 2016. Further information is available via http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/inquiries/parliament-2 015/public-parks.

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