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UK parks 'close to crisis point'
The UK's parks are "close to crisis point", campaigners warned after a report revealed public green spaces were facing budget cuts, staff losses and even being sold off.
Research shows that 86% of parks managers have seen cuts to their budgets since 2010, a trend they expect to continue over the next three years.
As a result, park facilities such as cafes and toilets could close or have reduced opening hours, grass could be left uncut and flowerbeds empty, and play areas cleaned and inspected less often, the study warned.
Almost half of local authorities (46%) are considering selling parks and green spaces or transferring their management to others, which could lead to the loss of part or all of some parks, the report from the Heritage Lottery Fund said.
In addition, four fifths (81%) of council parks departments have lost skilled management staff since 2010 and almost as many (77%) have lost front-line staff.
The threats to parks are a serious issue for the country, as they are one of the most heavily used public services with 34 million people estimated to make regular visits to their local green spaces, the report found.
More than two-thirds of park users (68%) say spending time in parks is important or essential to their quality of life, a figure that rises to 71% in urban areas. They are also considered important or essential to four fifths (81%) of parents with young children.
Campaigners called on the Government and local authorities to help protect and improve parks for future generations.
Mark Camley, chairman of newly-formed coalition The Parks Alliance, said: " This timely report provides the evidence to back up the experience of park staff and volunteers on the ground that the parks we know, love and use are close to crisis point.
"The Parks Alliance is keen to work with the Government now to halt the potentially disastrous decline in the green spaces that are at the heart of British life and culture.
"Together with the people that create, maintain and use parks, national and local government has a duty to protect and improve the country's public green spaces for future generations."
In addition to calling for continued investment by local authorities, the report also highlights the need for developing new ways of looking after and funding parks.
The Heritage Lottery Fund said it would continue to monitor and report on the public parks across the UK it has invested in, as well as investing more money in green spaces and in innovative ideas for making parks financially sustainable.