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We are deeply disappointed by the government’s budget, announced on 27 October. We had hopes that it would fund more and better public access, in town and country, in recognition of the effect of the pandemic which has made everyone appreciate the value of outdoor recreation for health and well-being. The government, in its flagship 25-year environment plan published in 2018, pledged that it would make sure that our natural environment ‘can be enjoyed, used by and cared for by everyone’, but so far nothing has been done towards this aim.
The only relevant mention in the budget was the commitment of ‘£9 million to the new Levelling Up Parks Fund, creating over 100 new parks across the UK to ensure equal access to parks in urban areas that are deprived of green space’.
The society laments that the commitment equates to less than £90,000 per park. Given that the promised parks are to be ‘in urban areas that are deprived of green space’, £90,000 won’t be enough to buy any new land — save, perhaps, in the most deprived areas where low land prices might enable the acquisition of a pocket handkerchief site, without leaving any funds for setting out as an open space.
The initiative may rely on local authorities releasing land held by them, but not currently used as open space, for rededication as parks. But even then, £90,000 won’t buy much improvement to the site to make it fit for public enjoyment. And it assumes that urban areas that are deprived of green space do have surplus land belonging to the local authority, ripe for repurposing.