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Prevent green spaces becoming 'orphaned'

Posted on 31 January 2014

More must be done to mobilise communities and businesses to get involved with protecting the UK’s green spaces in the face of local authority budget cuts, according to research released today by leading environmental charity Groundwork.

Groundwork’s Make Tomorrow Different research highlighted that while 97% of us have a green space that we value and want to see protected or improved, only 24% are currently actively involved in helping to look after these spaces.

As the country braces itself for further funding cuts for parks and green spaces as a result of reductions in central government funding, the charity is warning that many green spaces face becoming ‘orphaned’ as local authorities face difficult decisions on how these spaces continue to be maintained. Groundwork’s research suggests that partnerships between the third and private sectors, along with the support of the public, will be crucial to preserving the UK’s cherished outdoor spaces.

Asked what would encourage them to do more to look after their local park or green space, almost half (48%) of the survey’s 400 respondents stated they’d be moved to action if others were doing it too, while 44% stated that they’d be encouraged to act if they were given support from a charity or trusted third party.

Relaxing, enjoying nature and children’s play were all cited as key reasons respondents cherish green spaces.

Health and well-being benefits

Sir Tony HawkheadSir Tony Hawkhead, CEO Groundwork, said: “Estimates show that local authority parks budgets have already been reduced by at least 30 per cent. Implicit in this is an increasing responsibility for local communities to take on maintenance and preservation duties. Further cuts are expected in 2014 and across the country we’ll see the impact of this in terms of the quality of parks.

“Our survey reinforces the value the public places on green space, for a huge range of health and wellbeing reasons. But it also highlights a disconnect in communities and businesses actively involving themselves in preserving this value.”

He continued: “Study after study emphasises the role of green space in preserving our health and wellbeing – and it’s not just environmental organisations that are championing this cause. Just this week, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) published a study showing a clear correlation between the least healthy local authority areas in cities and the amount of housing and green space in those areas.

“Put simply; less green space means fewer healthy, happy people so the future of our parks and playing fields must not be left to chance. Our message today is, if you love it, get involved and help us preserve it.”

The role of business

The findings also highlight wide public support for businesses taking a more active role in improving the local environment; with 71% of respondents stating they would like to see businesses sponsoring parks and green spaces as well as big sporting events. Only 8% of those questioned had no expectation on businesses to help improve their local environment.

The charity points to its ‘United Futures’ partnership with water company United Utilities as a practical example of how businesses can get involved in safeguarding local green spaces. The partnership funds environmental projects across the North-West in neighbourhoods that are being disrupted by United Utilities work, meaning the inconvenience of essential maintenance works are compensated for by the environmental projects that follow.

The programme has seen work worth £4.5 million carried out on more than 140 local projects.

Download the survey results here.

Click here for tips on how you can create your own community project.

For further information, contact:

Garry Campbell, Communications Manager, Groundwork UK

T: 0121 237 5811

M: 07703 535841