The Groundsman

March 2014

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STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 23 the Groundsman March 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions To discover that parks and sports grounds are under threat from under- funding is without precedence. Surely it follows on from those 'rights', and that it is reasonable to infer, that the provision of places for play, sport and recreation (parks) are part of government's responsibility to ensure adequate provision for and proper funding of as pivotal to its policies for well- being and obesity reduction? Yes, you can obtain exercise in a gym and a leisure centre, but what is unique about parks and sports grounds is the way they enable exercise for the muscles to be combined with nourishment for the mind. That blend of work-out and inner solace cannot be provided in any other way that is free at the point of use for the whole community - regardless of age, background or financial situation. Parks, which are paid for by the community as part of general taxation (3p per day per head of population), are where children flock to kick a football about and to get that all-important exercise that fights the flab of modern diets. Recent evidence suggest that the prevention of obesity in the under fives brings benefits that can last for many years; if a healthy weight can be maintained until five years of age then those youngsters are four times less likely to develop obesity as a teenager. Parks provide much-needed relief from an increasingly busy and noisy urban lifestyle. And even for those who are not regular visitors, parks improve your health and well-being and your neighbourhood's environment as they mitigate some of the outcomes from climate change. What more evidence do we need to justify the benefits of well-designed and maintained parks and sports areas? • There is, however, some very positive news from the Heritage Lottery Fund: its report on the state of UK Parks due out in the spring will be a stock-take for those who support parks and hopefully it will provide a much needed objective assessment of the state of the UK's parks and their medium to longer term viability. l In next month's issue: Andrew Gill, president–elect and vice president of the Institute of Horticulture, will outline how he thinks local authorities can cope with the cuts. About The Parks Alliance The Parks Alliance (embracing all of the groundscare, horticultural, landscape and stakeholder roles) was created as local authorities cut resources for parks even further to meet reductions in central government funding, and the future for UK parks was looking less positive. The alliance grew out of Horticulture Week's 'Make Parks a Priority Campaign' to be a single, clear voice for those who care about parks, including local authorities, private companies, friends' groups and NGOs. Its purpose is to provide the interface between government and the sector, to work with the government to ensure it recognises the importance of parks to UK life and the challenges faced by this vital public service. The alliance is seeking to engage with a government departmental minister to take lead responsibility for parks. The alliance is very pleased with the support received from individuals and organisations, and it looks forward to working together in 2014 to create a lasting legacy and service that will provide that much-needed space and solace from an ever- growing noisy and fast-paced urban existence. The IOG is represented on the transitional Board of the Parks Alliance by our CEO Geoff Webb. Dr Sid Sullivan - a parks and amenity consultant, as well as academic writer and researcher – is a member of the Transitional Board of The Parks Alliance About the Author Innovative planting at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (with the Aquatics Centre in the background)

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