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Funding cuts to Bristol parks will have a “devastating impact”

Public urged to have their say in council consultation which ends midnight December 23

Main image: The Northern Slopes nature reserve is one of the local green spaces which will be affected by the cuts.

Proposed council budget cuts of £1.5 million for Bristol parks “will have a devastating impact” on parks and green spaces in the city campaigners say – and should be withdrawn.

Bristol Parks Forum (BPF) – an umbrella organisation for a number of the city’s community park groups – is calling for them to be “protected and properly funded” to make sure local people can continue to visit and enjoy them.

The cost cutting measures are part of Bristol City Council’s attempt to bridge a shortfall, with forecasts showing it faces a funding gap over the next five years of between £37.5 million and £87.6 million.

But statement on the BPF website says the cost of maintaining the open spaces is between £6 and £7 million a year – and a saving of £1.5 million would mean a reduction of 20 to 25 per cent which is “unacceptable.”

The Forum says it would mean the Parks Service would move from being supported from the Council’s general fund to being a net contributor.

It says: “…Reduced staff costs mean reduced staff numbers, this will mean less work will be done, less grass cutting, less bin-emptying, less repairs, fewer people to answer queries, fewer people to plan changes (for example to enhance biodiversity) fewer people to support park groups and other volunteers, fewer people to assess the likely impact of events or activities planned in parks and green spaces by other organisations…”

BPF fears there is a real risk this will lead to a ‘spiral of decline’ with reduced visitor numbers and increasing anti-social behaviour.

It says there will also be “a wider impact on the city” with the benefits of parks and green spaces to people and wildlife being lost. And it is asking The Parks Service to hold a ‘Big Parks Conversation’ in 2023/24.

Bristol City Council’s Cabinet member for Public Health and Communities Cllr Ellie King said the details had not been fully worked out yet.

Savings could involve a range of ideas, such as more food growing, community farms, re-wilding areas and communities taking on more responsibility where desired.

She said: “Public access is really important and it isn’t about locking people out or having a knee-jerk reaction to these savings and seeing it as us no longer looking after these spaces, but that needs to be modelled and consulted on…”.

The use of parks had increased as a result of lockdown – but this was adding pressure on the service to maintain the spaces.

To take part in the budget consultation visit: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Budget-2023-24/ It will end at midnight on December 23.