Warning that council cuts could hit North East parks

Leazes Park in Newcastle and Saltwell Park in Gateshead are among parks in the region that could be at risk from spending cuts

Saltwell Park, Gateshead
WITH VIDEO....The Barnardo's Big Toddle at Saltwell Park, Gateshead.

Gains made from almost £70m of lottery cash investment, which has revived public parks across the North East, are now at risk from spending cuts.

The warning has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund in a new report titled State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk?

It says that council cutbacks in parks maintenance threaten many restoration schemes carried out over the last 20 years which have give a new lease of life to the region’s parks.

Leazes Park in Newcastle, Saltwell Park in Gateshead, South Marine Park in South Shields,and Mowbray Park in Sunderland are among parks in the region which have received major lottery awards for restoration schemes.

A total of £68.3m in lottery money has been sunk into parks in the North East since 1994.

But the report says that unless future funding is generated in new ways, these parks are at serious risk of rapid decline.

Ivor Crowther, head of the fund in the North East, said: “The North East has a proud tradition of public parks, enjoyed by thousands daily. Highly valued and precious places, they are vital to the physical and emotional well-being of all our local communities.

“ Following decades of decline, lottery funding has revitalised parks across the North East but this reports shows that this investment is now at risk.

“We realise these are financially tough times and that is why we need collaborative action and a fresh approach to halt this threat of decline.

“Our parks are far too important not to act now.”

Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East
 

The report found that 63% of park managers who responded expect a decline in the condition of local parks in the North East over the next three years as a result of average expected cuts to maintenance budgets of 20%.

But local people are rallying round to protect their parks, with 38% of park managers reporting an increase of membership of friends groups in the North East’s parks over the last three years. The report says that local authorities have no statutory requirement to fund and maintain parks.

Neither is there a national co-ordinating body able to champion the importance of parks, to assert their value to communities and the economy, and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

In addition to calling for continued investment by local authorities, HLF’s report highlights the need to develop new ways of looking after and funding parks, including investing up to £24m each year across the UK through the Parks for People programme, with Big Lottery Fund providing an additional £10m per year in England until the end of 2015.

Nationally, the report shows that 86% of parks managers report cuts to revenue budgets since 2010, a trend they expect to continue over the next three years.

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