Health secretary and chair of NHS England join calls to save parks
The decline of parks across Britain will pile more pressure on the NHS. The service continues its struggle to cope with an obesity crisis, the Health Secretary warns.
Matt Hancock backed The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Parks campaign, saying: “The health of the nation is at stake.”
His intervention comes as the newspaper’s crusade to protect parks gathers momentum in Westminster. The Government is giving in to demands for 100 new parks to go under construction.
The chairman of NHS England, Sir Malcolm Grant, also throws his weight behind the crusade to keep parks open and clean.
Sir Malcolm warns that “poorly maintenance of parks and green spaces does little to invite walking or play”. The nation’s expanding waistlines “place a heavy burden on taxpayers.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock spoke out:
“If we do not do what is necessary to support the parks we have, then it will undermine the health of the nation. This increases the burden on the NHS in the long term. I want to see a healthier nation – and we need to support our parks and playgrounds to achieve this.”
Thousands of parks are in decline or are being sold by cash-strapped councils. Hundreds of playgrounds are also closing. Mail on Sunday campaign was centre stage during a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons last week. Former Cabinet Minister John Hayes challenging the government to build 100 parks.
He said: “Will the Housing Minister back The Mail on Sunday’s campaign to protect urban green spaces? Playing fields are places where people dance and play and meet friends and enjoy the open space. We need to protect them.”
Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said he was developing the government’s planning policy and “will take his [Mr Hayes’s] advice in doing so.” He said the Government aimed to build 200,000 homes in 23 garden towns by the middle of the century. He adds: “I hope we might rise to his challenge of producing 100 new parks if each town had four.”
Chairman of BALI National Contractor’ Forum, Phil Jones comments:
“Parks and open spaces have never been more important than they currently are. Well maintained, safe, clean, parks play a central role in supporting the move to improve the health of our nation. BALI-NCF (National Contractor’s Forum) members maintain some of the most historically important green spaces in the UK. The Forum also supports the campaign to provide new open spaces. This aims to protect, and improve funding for existing green spaces.
“Sufficient funding for the ongoing maintenance of parks is as important as providing more of them. All too often we see new green spaces as a consequence of new developments, only to see them lack funding and go into decline. Providing new parks amongst new housing developments is vital. But, the green spaces themselves must have proper infrastructure and set in the right environment for them to get proper appreciation”.