Local councils need to be proactive in saving their open spaces2 min read

We have called on town and parish councils in Hampshire to be proactive in saving and supporting their local open spaces in these times of austerity.

Nicola Hodgson, our society’s case officer, was speaking at the annual conference of the Hampshire Association of Local Councils on the vital topic of saving and supporting open spaces.

Says Nicola: ‘The funding for open spaces is severely threatened, because it is not protected in council budgets. Central government’s financial support to local authorities is being slashed, thereby reducing the councils’ capacity to support discretionary services such as open spaces. Many councils are likely to offer such land to parish and town councils through asset transfer.

‘We advise councils on how to protect their open spaces, by getting them listed as an Asset of Community Value, or designated as Local Green Space (LGS).

‘In March 2015 the society launched a tool kit for protecting open spaces and we wrote to all planning authorities to encourage them to be proactive in the protection of open spaces, and to use the LGS designation to safeguard land which is valued by local communities,’ Nicola explains.

The society is troubled that the LGS designation is not being widely used, because the criteria are vague and it only provides the same level of protection as that offered for green belt land. The society in its recent response to a consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework raised concerns about the lack of a proper process for designating LGS and it opposed the proposals to weaken green belt protection which would inevitably weaken the protection given to areas designated as LGS.

Nicola will lead a discussion on the benefits of asset transfer and local delivery of services, what local councils can expect if they take on open spaces and what help they can get, as well as the benefits of listing land as an Asset of Community Value, and designation as LGS. She will also explore other ways of protecting open space, including the creation of community open spaces and holding land under charitable trust for the benefit of the public.

‘I am delighted to speak at this important event and want to encourage parish and town councillors and officers to look at ways of saving and supporting open spaces,’ concludes Nicola.

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