Parks have been a vital public service throughout the UK’s lockdown. But their financial plight and health benefits have not been fully recognised.
- Parks have suffered funding cuts under austerity, whilst recentgovernment policies have been ad hoc. Parks are kept afloat by volunteer labour, lottery funding, and controversial commercialisation projects.
- “Natural capital valuations” can demonstrate the myriad benefits of parks, far beyond the value of their maintenance budgets. One estimate puts the wellbeing value of UK parks and green spaces at £32.4bn.
- Park Districts – mirroring practices in some US cities, homeowners with properties in close proximity to parks could pay a small tax to directly fund local authority parks. In Seattle’s King County, this rate is $7.20 permonth for the owner of a home worth $500,000.
- Transferring control to non-profits – communities often plug the gapwhen local authorities cannot fully maintain parks. In light of a pilot inNewcastle, policymakers should explore whether charitable foundations and communities are better placed to provide urban green spaces.
- Involving business – taxpayer funds have been a vital lifeline for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses can return the favourby investing locally in shared green spaces once the crisis recedes.
- A new role for the NHS – international evidence and NHS pilots haveshown that using parks as a healthcare resource can improve outcomes for patients. Green prescribing could save NHS resources and see NHS England play a contributary role in urban green space provision.