What do people think about their local parks? results of a survey by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee

"We're the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee. We scrutinise the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

We've been looking into how to secure a sustainable future for parks. We're very grateful to everyone who has contributed to our inquiry, whether by completing our survey, submitting written or oral evidence, or taking part in our #myparkmatters hashtag. The responses and comments we received have shown very clearly just how much people care about their parks."

Clive Betts MP

Chair, Communities and Local Government Committee

We wanted to know what people’s local parks mean to them, so we asked them to fill out a survey. Over 13,000 people from all over the UK chose to share their views and experiences.

We asked: “How often do you visit your local park?”

"An amazing space and oasis in central London. I am in there every day at 6.30am with my dog come rain, sun or snow."
"Following treatment for breast cancer two years ago I walked there every day. Having easy access to this green space was hugely important for my mental and physical recovery."

We asked: “What do you use your local park for?” The top 20 most selected activities from a list of suggested options were:

Nearly 2,000 people used a free text box to describe what they used their local park for:

"With a very low income family I am able to have fun educational relaxing days out for no money, which saves a lot of NHS bills for me and for my son who has sensory needs. We would have struggled to cope in our tiny home and garden."
"Parks and open spaces are so essential in our lives, places where we can relax, watch nature naturally, meet up with friends and family, perhaps listen to music."
"Our local park is well used and well loved. The junior football club uses it for training every Saturday with approx. 300 young people, plus their parents coming to the park and enjoying it, as well as the adult football leagues that come and play. During the summer months, I see cricketers using it."

We asked: “How do you find out about activities or events in your local park?” The most selected activities from a list of suggested options were:

"They hold events to promote the park including health walks, heritage walks, task days and offer free guided walks to charities and community groups. As I have become more involved with the Friends Group I have been amazed to see the benefits for both individuals and groups."
"It is place to relax, exercise, watch people and enjoy the atmosphere. There are frequent events in the park which at times restrict usage of parts of the park which is a terrible shame. We all want the park to make money but not to detriment of other park users."

We asked: “How do you usually get to the park and how long does it take you to get there?”

"Walking in our local park l get to see people and get to know them, most people will make conversation with me. We also have another local park which I [go to] most Saturday mornings as there is parkrun and have done 104 runs so far. (Not bad for a 76 year old) … it's not just running it is a community spirit meeting like-minded people of all ages."
"We used to live next to our local park so would walk and cycle there daily. Now the nearest is a car ride distant because there is no dedicated or safe cycle route to get to it."
"I cycle through at least one of them daily on my way to work and they are heavily used by parents with children, runners and other exercisers, people sitting enjoying the surroundings, dog walkers and people walking through them to town. They are altogether lovely to experience."

We asked: “On average, how long do you spend in the park each visit?”

"Parks give life to communities, they create safer neighbourhoods, they provide green spaces in towns and cities, help children learn and promote public health."
"The park is an escape from the hustle and bustle of town life. It's absolutely beautiful and a glorious place to be to blow away the cobwebs. It has a positive effect on all of the neighbourhood children and educates them on nature and wildlife."
"The health and mental well-being benefits of parks cannot be emphasised enough. Leaving a wild space for wildlife and for trees is also so important. Trees are essential in combating climate change and in reducing flooding."

We asked: “What is your perception of the park?”

"I am concerned about the gradual decline in standards due to funding being cut from central and local government."
"The play area is poor with little for children to do. It is not disabled friendly. There is often broken glass and vandalism however there is a short cycle track to allow scooters and bikes. There are no toilets."
"The parks community are extremely fearful that where we have increased the quality of our parks over the last 15 years, Parks will now slide back into decline once more and we will see the return of a more unhealthy and unattractive service which is low quality and not fit for purpose."

We asked: “What impact do you feel your local park has on your health and well-being?”

"It is a wonderful and inclusive area for all to enjoy. Great benefit to the health and well-being of the community."
"I had heard … that parks are good for mental health, so I decided to test the theory. I can tell you it works, it really does."
"[Parks] are essential for well-being, and are a key factor in fighting childhood obesity and promoting positive mental health, amongst other things. Parks are essential space for bringing the community together, encouraging local residents to get together and meet their neighbours in a neutral, welcoming space."

We asked: “What impact do you feel your local park has on your local community?”

"There are many retirement homes adjacent to both parks and offers older people a safe place to meet, walk and enjoy the environment whether sitting by the river or walking through woodland."
"Freely accessible public space is essential to help build community cohesion and identity in culturally mixed areas like mine. It encourages interaction between people - encourages people to talk to each other."
"It is absolutely vital to our sense of community and well-being. It's used by young and old all day."

We asked whether there was anything else people wanted to tell us about their local park, and over 6,500 people responded:

"Our local park is the heart of the community and brings all generations together. It's a huge benefit for health and wellbeing. And brings the countryside into the centre of town so that everyone can access it."
"I feel very lucky. The children are always playing in the park, tennis, football, the older generation are playing bowls. The gardens are beautiful, lots of places to walk your animals, running track and bicycles, we need these green areas for our children and for adults to exercise and have fun."
"As a committee member for a local Park Friends group, I am keenly aware that expected cuts to local Council funding are likely to hit parks and open spaces very hard. Our park has been lucky enough to have just finished an extensive regeneration programme, but before that had looked sad and neglected … Local parks are a massive community asset and need to be funded."

We asked people to use the hashtag #myparkmatters to share their videos, photos and comments about why their park matters to them.

We asked people to send us written evidence.

We held oral evidence sessions to hear directly from park stakeholders.

We visited Newcastle to meet councillors, council staff, friends and community groups, and other parks stakeholders to see for ourselves the challenges parks are facing.

What will happen next?

We will carefully consider all of the written and oral evidence we have received, including the survey responses. We will then prepare and publish a report early in 2017 setting out our conclusions and making recommendations to the Government.

You can follow the inquiry on our website or on Twitter at @CommonsCLG, or contact us at clgcom@parliament.uk.

Survey methodology

The survey was promoted from 11 July 2016 until 30 September 2016, and was closed for responses on 12 October 2016. The survey was available to complete online, and promoted via the Committee’s website and Twitter account. The House of Commons Outreach Team promoted the online survey to 1,627 of their contacts. The Outreach Team also undertook face to face surveys in Christchurch Park and the Bangladeshi Centre in Ipswich. Respondents to the survey were primarily self-selecting. The results have not been weighted or adjusted.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to our inquiry by taking part in our survey, submitting written evidence, giving oral evidence, or by contributing to the #myparkmatters hashtag. We would particularly like to thank the following contributors to our Twitter hashtag for kindly allowing us to use their photos on this page (from top to bottom):

Created By
House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee
Appreciate

Credits:

@FieldsInTrust, @cse_Bristol, @anthonybeyga31, @CWParkman, @SouthAshford, @lizixer, @BandMasta, @AndyDHodgson, @ParksSheffield, @marplewebsite, @dianycazadora, @gemlittlefair, @biscuitcatcher, @EdwardHMO, @Sam_theexplorer, @FiDaisyG, @GroundworkSY, Chris Cox, Peter Neal, Shaun Kiddell, @StarbankPark

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