Douglas White: Protect green spaces for future

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It is well known that having access to good local parks, playing fields and other green spaces has a major impact on our quality of life.

Research has shown that the existence of these spaces can encourage regular physical activity, reduce stress or anxiety and support improved social cohesion. Findings published last year by the Heritage Lottery Fund highlighted that parks across the UK are visited 2.6 billion times each year, while more than 80 per cent of families with children visit their local park at least once a month. In Scotland, data from the Scottish Household Survey shows that more than two-thirds of people who think their neighbourhood is “a very good place to live” have green space within a five-minute walk of their home.

But despite their value, green spaces are under threat. A survey of local authority park managers by the Heritage Lottery Fund found that 45 per cent of councils said they were considering selling green spaces, or transferring the management of them to others. There is no obligation for playing fields and other recreational spaces to be provided, so these spaces are often under threat when there is a need to raise funds. This, combined with an ever increasing need for more housing and commercial development, continues to threaten the stock of playing fields in the UK.

Given this situation, initiatives to protect and develop playing fields or green spaces are very important. One example is the greenspace Scotland initiative. MyParkScotland, which is being developed in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council, Future Cities and Edinburgh Friends Forum. This scheme is aiming to find new ways of funding parks through crowdfunding and corporate donations.

Another initiative is #FieldFinders, which has just been launched by my own organisation, the Carnegie UK Trust, in partnership with Fields in Trust, a national charity that protects outdoor spaces. Our two organisations first worked together back in the 1920s and 1930s when we gave grants of £200,000 – the equivalent of around £10 million today – to help establish nearly 900 playing fields, including new fields in Haddington, North Berwick, Dalkeith, Penicuik and Bathgate. However, while we know the towns and cities where these new fields were created, no central record was kept of the precise locations of these sites. Through #FieldFinders we want to re-find the Carnegie Playing Fields and improve their legal status to ensure they remain protected. We’re asking the public to help us find playing fields in their area – and two winners will receive £5000 improvement grants to help develop facilities at their playing field. To get involved visit www.fieldfinders.org/Carnegie.

Douglas White is head of advocacy at Carnegie UK Trust