Paul Rabbitts FRSA FLI

Author, Parks Historian, Public Speaker



The future of our parks rests in our hands?

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 1:50 PM

This blog has being coming for a while now and for a number of reasons:-


  • Watford has been lucky (actually not lucky, but has worked bloody hard) to be awarded 8 Green Flag Awards this month and I attended a great ceremony at Waltham Forest Town Hall followed by Watersmeet in Rickmansworth with colleagues to pick up our awards
  • Watford has won a great award for best Parks Restoration Project in 2016 for the Watford Parks Inprovement Programme
  • The wonderful feedback on my Great British Parks book which I am so proud of. 
But it was 2 other issues that have got me this week. 
  • A group from Lancaster contacted me about the apalling state of their local park and their bandstand within it and the fact that the local council, Lancaster City Council are refusing to work with a local group and they actually feel discriminated against because they are in a more deprived area. Ryelands Park in Lancaster was in my view a dump. The bandstand was the worst example of wanton vandalism I have seen in years by a council. Yet the council seem to ignore its heriatge here, the needs of a local community and seem more intent on dedicating the park to monster truck kind of events and to ignore community needs. 
  • The announcement at last that there is now to be a Government public inquiry into the state of our public parks - link below. 
What is so significant about all this. I will tell you why? We now have 1,686 Green Flag Parks in the country and we have invested over £750 in historic parks through the Heritage Lottery Fund Parks for People Programme. All this in 20 years and one hell of an achievement. So all is good then? No! Clearly not. Austerity. Budget cuts. Revenue Support Grants going. Parks at a tipping point. Despite the investment and despite the high number of Green Flag Parks - we have 27,000 parks in the country and their overall standards are slipping. 
Check out these headlines

"Councils might be desperate for cash, but charging parkrun isn’t the solution" Guardian 15th April 2016

"Reimagining park life: how Britain’s green spaces are scrambling for cash" Guardian 18th Feb 2016

These are just some of the headlines. There are many more. This has been creeping up on us since austerity became the norm. People are really worried, very worried. We are smack bang in the middle of a funding crisis. A lot of work has been done to look at better ways of funding parks. 

But in MOST cases, the answer is decent funding for decent parks and managed by local authorities. The sector is struggling to be heard and has one singular voice - the Parks Alliance but not much else. 

A glimmer of light on the horizon? a new governement in place - same policies possibly but a new Prime Minister and Cabinet who might listen. What have we got though - a public inquiry into public parks. This is so important and if you care about our natural health service then you need to play your part, whether as an individual, or as an organisation, group, Friends Group, local authority. Our green spaces and public parks matter. Without quality parks and green spaces, we are all less well off. Remember why we had public parks in the first place? Easily cut, easily lost? without doubt and we would be worse off without them. 

The inquiry link is below. Please do your bit.


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Reply James (Jim) Rea
3:55 PM on July 31, 2016 
Hi Paul, got copy of your latest book, great addition to my library on Parks History.Got a huge collection of Parks Poscards, including fountains, ornamental bedding etc. If you ever need something specific, ask, I may have it. Regards Jim Rea FLS. Retired Barnet Parks Dept
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