A new report, ‘The State of the UK Public Parks’, published by APSE using data from CFP, finds that from 2010 onwards parks budgets have reduced by £690 million, leading to industry calls to stem this decline and leverage new investment in these valuable local community assets. With local councils responsible for managing 85% of the UK’s urban parks, the past decade of austerity has delivered sharp cuts to parks repairs and maintenance budgets.

This follows on from the previous ‘State of the UK Public Parks’ published by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016, the report identified that there was a need for central government, local authorities and a variety of partners to work together to address the problem of declining budgets, and the impact of the loss of finance on the quality, availability and future sustainability of UK’s parks. 

“Whilst our report reflects on initiatives to stimulate parks, we find that continued austerity measures have not been ameliorated by central government support, which has amounted to sporadic and small-scale grants to support initiatives such as ‘pocket parks’ and small renovation projects."

- Paul O’Brien, APSE Chief Executive

The report authors found that the impact of the COVID-19 health pandemic has created further challenges for UK parks. The double impact of parks becoming  the lifeline for local communities during lockdown and travel restrictions, the ability to raise income from activities such as cafes, sports pitch hire and events was effectively stopped by public health restrictions. As this income had become a lifeline to parks during the age of austerity, to meet the gaps in local budgets. The loss of income but at the very point when footfall in parks has massively increased, placing additional budgetary pressures to clean, and maintain, our parks for the benefit of local communities.

The report identifies a number of ways that parks can help meet many of the current outcomes of many public policy objectives:

  • A means to support the levelling up agenda, through the development of new parks to address the often-unequal outcomes in some of the poorest communities, when it comes to accessing green space.
  • A means to support climate change action in both mitigation, in capturing carbon and enhancing biodiversity, and in adaptation, as part of action plans on flood defences, heat protection and air quality. 
  • A means to secure the future green skills within the UK. Our research found that parks are at risk of becoming de-professionalised because of a failure to recognise the key skills needed for parks, and the need for career pathways, to ensure the future of the parks workforce.
  • A means to engage communities in volunteering; the pandemic decreased volunteer capacity due to self-isolation and public health regulations but parks offer a golden opportunity to engage young and old alike, and all within our communities to take pride and care in their local environment and enhance inclusion.      

Read the report