Why protecting our parks also means protecting the health of our nation
I have quite a bit of sympathy with well-known gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, who recently said it was ‘a sin’ that our beautiful public amenities are suffering from lack of funding.
Looking at things from the government’s perspective, I can understand why there is a perceived need for local government expenditure to be rationalised and looked at closely. We’ve been through difficult times and we need prudence where public expenditure is concerned.
No organisation or body wants its funding cut, and it can seem that any protests are just a manifestation of the old ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome.
Not being a politician, I can’t profess to being an expert in these things, but I guess the decision-making processes when deciding what is to be cut is all about identifying everything that is not absolutely vital, and then putting all of that into a priority order.
I’m not sure where ‘parks and open spaces’ ended up on the list, but certainly they were high enough to be the subject of severe funding cutbacks.
There are some in our industry now who are speculating that as early as next year, local government spending on parks could disappear altogether, with subsequent closure imminent soon after.
That would be a disaster.
Let’s stop and remind ourselves of the importance of parks and open spaces to the life of all who inhabit this green and pleasant land – which is, don’t forget, also a small and overpopulated island.
The government has stated, quite rightly, that childhood obesity is a potentially momentous problem. A new School Food Plan has just been unveiled, which puts forward key recommendations about young people’s healthy eating.
I think this is an excellent move, because, as most of us know, diet is really important to health and young people’s health is vital to the future prosperity of the nation.
And what’s the other one thing that’s vital to health? It’s exercise. Parks and open spaces are so important in encouraging people to enjoy exercise and leisure. They are a major contributor to healthy lifestyles.
If you reduce opportunities for people to benefit from being out in the fresh air, you’re also having an adverse effect on their health.
On our small, overcrowded island, not everyone can have a nice garden to enjoy. Many rely on shared open spaces.
Urban green spaces significantly improve health and people’s general wellbeing. Alan Titchmarsh also makes an interesting point when he says that, ironically, parks and open spaces are major contributors to 3 main things the government is most concerned with at the moment: health, education and law and order.
Health I’ve talked about. Education, because parks teach people about all the things that grown. They teach about the physical landscape of this country, about its past and its future.
From ancient times onward, civilisation has been built on a finely balanced relationship between humanity and the flora and fauna of its surroundings. Undercut that relationship and you start to hack away at the fabric of civilisation itself. That might sound like I’m being a little bit dramatic, but I really do believe this!
The third thing Alan talks about is law. It is well documented that areas lacking green spaces have a higher crime rate. To quote his words from a recent article in Horticulture Week:
“The public spaces are the communal gardens of our country…It’s so important to talk about the spiritual sense of well-being.”
Almost all of us have experienced the joy of being outside in a public park. Titchmarsh is so right to talk about a sense of feeling uplifted when you’re out there.
So this is why I am going to keep working hard to help protect what we have, and to actively campaign for expansion of parks and open spaces.
I hope you agree with me on this and I would welcome you thoughts.
Till next time,