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Parliamentary committee uses RTPI advice to help save public parks

15 February 2017

Public parks could face a period of decline as local authorities struggle to fund their upkeep, a new report from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee has warned. The report, released last week, calls on the government to support new ways of paying and managing green spaces, in recognition of the wide range of benefits they deliver.

James Harris Parliamentary Evidence Public ParksDuring the committee’s investigation, the RTPI recommended a strategic approach to park management. Devolution deals, from Combined Authorities and city-regions, could be used to open up new opportunities for place-based cooperation. The committee supported this idea, recommending a ‘whole place’ approach to public parks in its report. It called on the government to encourage cooperation between local authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards and other bodies to develop shared, strategic plans for green infrastructure.

The RTPI argued public parks should be understood as a type of ‘green infrastructure’. Green infrastructure helps tackle the impact of flooding, overheating and poor air quality, encourages walking and cycling and supports healthy lifestyles. A clearer understanding of these benefits would help local authorities attract funding from new partners. Healthcare bodies, transport authorities and water companies all derive benefits from high-quality green space and may help fund their upkeep. Classifying public parks as green infrastructure would help it to be planned and managed like a city’s transport or energy infrastructure.

The Institute highlighted the critical role of planning to make sure new development is accompanied by the necessary infrastructure to support it. Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding is playing an increasingly important role in the upkeep of green space. However, given the competing demands on these sources of funding, more radical changes may be needed to secure funding for green infrastructure. The RTPI called on the government to explore new ways to capture the uplift in the value of private land from the granting of planning permission. This money could be reinvested into all forms of infrastructure, including green spaces.

This is the final report of the Communities and Local Government Committee, made up of a cross-party group of MPs, on their inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on them. The RTPI provided written evidence to the committee and James Harris, Policy and Network Manager, gave evidence to the committee in 2016.

The RTPI is a member of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, a network of more than 1,000 people and organisations that support the creation, enhancement and promotion of green infrastructure in the UK.

Download the Select Committee report: Public parks: securing a sustainable future

Read: the RTPI’s written evidence to the inquiry

Watch: James Harris give evidence to the Committee (starts at 17:28)

The Planner’s coverage: Report: Parks face period of decline