12th July 2017- By Alex Ballinger
A petition calling for the protection of park funding has almost 2,000 signatures
As Bristol’s parks face funding cuts from the city council, campaigners have been stressing the importance of green spaces in the city.
Bristol City Council currently spends around £4.5million every year on parks, but this could be withdrawn by April 2019 as the council attempts to shave millions off its budget.
The local authority needs to make £33million worth of savings this financial year and a number of services are under threat, including the city’s parks.
But why do we need the green spaces?
he Avon Wildlife Trust, a charity that works to protect wildlife, has responded to the council’s planned changes to parks funding.
‘Dramatically reduce spending’
A statement from the trust said: “As the funding for Bristol’s parks is reviews, with a proposal to dramatically reduce spending on these spaces across the city over the next two years, Avon Wildlife Trust is calling for their true value for wildlife and people to be recognised.
“Bristol’s advantages as an attractive and nature-rich city – with landmark green spaces in the urban centre and in neighbourhoods – are often listed as a significant pull factor for business and tourism.”
The council maintains 1,652 parks and green spaces, which stretch over 2,217 hectares – the size of around 4,138 football pitches.
They attract more than 25million people a year, making them Bristol’s most visited leisure facilities.
Cost of £7m a year
In April, a council spokesman told the Bristol Post: “At the meeting of full council in February, councillors passed a budget that contained over 100 savings proposals, including a proposal to work towards making the parks service cost-neutral to the council.
“The report due to be discussed by councillors at next week’s Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Commission contains a number of draft options to generate income and reduce the costs of running the service.
“This formative discussion with councillors will help shape these options and identify new ideas of generating income.”
It costs £7m to maintain the city’s parks and green spaces, and £4.5m of that is being paid through council budgets.
The petition has attracted 1,787 signatures so far.
‘For wildlife and for residents’
Avon Wildlife Trust added: “For wildlife and for Bristol residents, our parks are more than a ‘top ten’ listing in a city guide, providing a rich habitat for species, and a chance to personally connect with nature close to people’s homes.
From kingfishers darting up from the harbour to the ponds on Brandon Hill, and making their homes next to the river Frome at Snuff Mills, to the otters spotted in the lake and river in Eastville Park, Bristol’s parks provide thriving habitats for birds, mammals, insects and plant life – some of which is now in decline nationally.
“And for people of all ages and from all Bristol’s diverse communities, neighbourhood and city centre parks provide a free and accessible way to experience and benefit from nature.
“Having access to high-quality green space improves health and wellbeing, and all communities are entitled to this access – especially those who have no garden or allotment to spend time in.
“We understand the immense pressures all local authorities are facing in maintaining public services including their parks and green spaces. As decisions are made we want the true value of our parks for people and wildlife to be fully recognised, and are keen to join with other voices from across the city to be part of the conversation about the best plan for our parks.”