Sheffield researchers to investigate parks management in the face of austerity
New research from the University of Sheffield aims to shed light on how parks management is changing, as local authorities deal with severe budget cuts.
A group of researchers from the Department of Landscape will question every Local Authority in England to find out how the management and maintenance of parks and green space in cities has changed in the context of austerity.
The researchers, who are part of the Place-keeping Group in the Department of Landscape, aim to discover how Local Authorities have adapted their services over time to cope with reduced funding. The survey will provide a national overview of what practices are and are not working as well as recording the drivers for different arrangements, issues and barriers to change. Having been piloted on four Local Authorities, the survey will be rolled out nationally on 7th September, when every Local Authority in England will have an opportunity to share their experiences.
The survey comes at a time when many UK parks face an uncertain future. A 2014 study, by the Heritage Lottery Fund found that 86% of park managers reported cuts to their revenue budgets of an average of 20% since 2010. Liverpool City Council reported their parks department budget of £10 million would be cut by 50% over the following three years. Although 2.6bn visits are made to the UK’s parks each year, they are not represented by any national body, nor is there any statutory requirements governing their upkeep.
The survey will investigate the innovative ways that have been used by Local Authorities to save money, such as involving third sector or community groups in parks maintenance or contracting out services. By conducting a national audit, the researchers hope to understand what is working successfully and how practices are changing. The work is part of a wider study, led by Aalborg University, Denmark, which will compare the situation in the UK with that in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Mel Burton from the Department of Landscape said: ”In light of austerity this is a timely piece of research, with our Scandinavian colleagues, that will help us better understand the current situation in green space management. Parks management is at a cross roads and this research will help local authorities benchmark their provision and provide valuable insights into current and changing practices.”
This research is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences Wellbeing research theme.
Read the Heritage Lottery study: State of UK Parks 2014 Renaissance to Risk?