Zero lottery cash to maintain parks for parts of county

Parts of the county received zero lottery funding to maintain parks and green spaces over the last decade.

Telford Town Park was popular with visitors when the weather was bright in the first lockdown
Telford Town Park was popular with visitors when the weather was bright in the first lockdown

Salopians have developed a new found appreciation for their local outdoor spaces since the country was laid low by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during the first lockdown.

A major distributor of cash for the upkeep of parks is the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and figures obtained under freedom of information laws show Telford & Wrekin received zero in the decade up to 2019/20.

Shropshire received £1.2 million of the £406 million fund, which is still considered low in comparison to other areas in the West Midlands. It equates to £3.62 per person in the area based on Office for National Statistics population estimates, lower than the average £6.56 across the West Midlands.

The data includes funding for public parks and squares, cemeteries and pay-to-enter gardens.

The regional figure hides wide variations between areas – Sandwell received £26.80 per head, while Wolverhampton got funding worth just 4p per person.

The Midlands Parks Forum, a charity which promotes green space in the region, said many parks in their area have benefitted from lottery funding.

But the group’s partnership manager Alison Bate said that some might struggle to apply for it.

“Some authorities are firefighting with only a handful of staff, so time and resources to chase funding is non-existent in some councils,” she added.

Duty

Grants given to projects in the West Midlands totalled £38.9 million over the last decade, the third-most of the 12 UK regions.

London took the lion’s share, at £11.94 per head, followed by Scotland (£6.81), while the East Midlands saw the least (£4.12).

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, said the virus has put a spotlight on inequality of access to the outdoors across the country.

The charity’s Green Space Index, released earlier this year, estimates around 5,700 people in Telford and Wrekin live more than a 10-minute walk from a green space, among 266,000 across the West Midlands in the same position.

“A similar approach, directing lottery funding to those with limited access to green space, could help to level up distribution,” said Ms Griffiths.

But the longer-term solution is for parks to be funded through councils, she added.

“They are arguably the most universal of all our public services, used by the entire community, from pre-school children through to retired adults. Yet unlike education or libraries, parks are a discretionary service which councils have no statutory duty to provide.”

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