A new Ipsos MORI survey has found that nine out of 10 adults identify parks, playgrounds and green spaces as important in making somewhere a good place to live or work. More than three quarters want to see investment in them maintained by their local council but a significant number think business and private organisations should also contribute towards their upkeep.
In the poll, commissioned by environmental charity Groundwork, respondents said that parks, playgrounds and green spaces should have their funding protected over and above other public services including youth services, sports facilities, libraries, museums and art galleries. Forty per cent said that money from sponsorship and payment by local companies or organisations should pay for the upkeep of parks, playgrounds, and other green spaces in their local area.
The results will be announced at a public debate on the future of urban green space to be held in Manchester, commonly acknowledged as the birthplace of campaigns for public parks in the 19th century.
The ‘Green Space and Communities’ event, supported by Manchester City Council and Marks & Spencer and bringing together a wide range of environmental bodies, will argue that failure to maintain investment in green space is a false economy and will see costs to the public purse rise in the future. Research commissioned to support the event also highlights that a focus on the conservation, development and use of green space could help compensate for cuts in mainstream services such as health and crime prevention and help to tackle social issues like mental and physical health as well as the economic effects of flooding and pollution.
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Landscape designer and broadcaster Chris Beardshaw, one of the keynote speakers at the Manchester Town Hall event, says: “Green spaces are seen by all as a vital and universal public service and if we invest in them properly we can mitigate some of the worst of the cuts in other areas.
“We know that the NHS has to find £20 billion of savings but we also know that access to green space reduces the likelihood of obesity and could save as much as £2 billion. We also know that helping people get involved in activities and events on their local green spaces can make communities more stable and cohesive. Increasing a sense of community by just a small margin could be enough to save more than £350 million in the cost of tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. That’s equivalent to saving more than 7,500 police jobs.
“Greening our towns and cities will also help us cope with flooding – predicted to treble over the next 30 years and already costing us more than £2bn.
“But we can’t just rely on the public sector struggling with these cuts to do the job alone. The Ipsos MORI research clearly shows the public is calling on PLCs to play their part too. There are some great examples of businesses helping to manage our green infrastructure – whether as major landowners themselves or by encouraging their staff and customers to get involved. But we need a change of gear. I want to see more retailers, utilities companies, insurance companies and banks dig in to support the cause.
“150 years ago Manchester was at the forefront of the campaign to bring nature into the city. The campaign was led by the local MP working closely with major industrialists and motivating people from all sections of society to work together to make it happen. That spirit of collaboration and innovation is precisely what we need today.”
Earlier this year Groundwork published a report making the case for investment in green spaces called ‘Grey places need green spaces.’ The report drew together evidence from across the green space sector and made 13 recommendations on how parks and green spaces of all shapes and sizes could be preserved for future generations.