Are Reading’s Parks under threat because of budget cuts?

Have your say on the future of public parks.  A national survey has been launched as part of an inquiry by the Communities and Local Government Committee to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on parks and consider concerns that their existence is under threat.

Within a short walk of the Whitley Pump are Cintra Park, Longbarn Lane Recreation Ground and Waterloo Meadows. There are also playgrounds such as The Tank and Aveley Walk play area. Each of our local parks, open spaces or recreation grounds has its own character, but none have the formal elegance of Forbury Gardens or Caversham Court Gardens.

Forbury Gardens and Caversham Court have both consistently won Green Flag awards for their excellence. Caversham Court Gardens has an active Friends organisation that raises additional funding and participates in its management and maintenance.

Display sponsored by the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens

Display sponsored by the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens

In 2014, the Heritage Lottery Fund, which funded improvement programmes at Forbury Gardens and Caversham Court Gardens, published a report on the state of the UK’s public parks with the headline ‘public parks under threat‘.

Reading Borough Council planning polices include a consideration of requirements for parks and open space. The consultation on ‘issues and options’ for the  new local plan included a section on open spaces. The vision statement in the current open spaces strategy states:

Everyone will be able to enjoy high quality public open spaces that are clean, safe and well-maintained. Our rivers and canals will be the focus for an interconnected series of accessible and desirable public spaces, providing a range of natural and urban experiences. In addition there will be a choice of accessible, high quality public parks and open spaces that together will provide places for people to meet, play and relax. These open areas will incorporate a range of habitats that will help maintain and enhance the diversity of local wildlife, and provide for a better overall quality of life.

S106 developer contributions are regularly used to improve facilities in public parks, including Cintra Park which received £37,459 in the last financial year. A capital improvements plan for 2015-17 for leisure, parks and open spaces included £348,500 of capital works, mainly funded by S106 contributions. Running and maintenance costs are likely to more problematic in the current economic climate.

Richard Bennett, chair of Reading Civic Society, told the Whitley Pump:

The funding of parks is not a statutory requirement of councils. As councils across the country face the challenges of funding cuts there is an increasing risk that some councils will only be able to cover statutory requirements. Reading Civic Society asks everyone to take part in this inquiry which it believes is important to you, your children, grandchildren and future generations. You have until 30 September to either complete a survey or make a written submission. Please make any teachers or lecturers you know aware of this inquiry as it is important that children of all ages have to opportunity also to contribute their views.

Written submissions can be made to the inquiry and there is also an online survey. Face-to face surveys are planned in parks, and the committee says that it is also working with the ‘House of Commons education service’s network of teacher ambassadors’ to engage with children and young people.

Links to information, the survey and submission instructions can be found on the Public Parks Inquiry webpage.

Deadline for submissions is 30 September 2016


Links

  1. Public Parks Inquiry
  2. Parks, Outdoor Facilities and Open Spaces
  3. Caversham Court and Forbury Gardens win Green Flag Awards
  4. Friends of Caversham Court Gardens
  5. Public parks under threat
  6. New Local Plan
  7. New Local Plan – Open Spaces
  8. Reading Planning Policies
  9. Reading Open Spaces Strategy
  10. Report to Housing Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee 18 November 2015
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