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Local authorities cite Covid-19 catastrophe for park services

Words: Huw Morris
Parks / iStock-108359509

Parks and green spaces are on the brink of losing 87 per cent of their income because of Covid-19, according to local authorities.

Although most parks remained open during the first lockdown earlier this year, their sources of income such as cafés, sports pitches and visitor attractions were forced to close, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). 

Many council park services also face higher costs such as enhanced cleaning, personal protective equipment and signage.

The LGA anticipates a continued loss of income owing to the need to employ more staff or reduce visitor numbers to comply with social distancing guidelines. The pandemic has also resulted in the temporary cessation of volunteering and the loss of in-kind volunteer contribution to parks services.

One local authority, Leeds City Council, is predicted to lose £8.8 million on an annual income budget of £16.6 million – a forecast loss of 53 per cent.

“Parks have always been an important part of our communities, but the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions highlighted how essential they are in maintaining our physical and mental wellbeing,” said LGA culture, tourism and sport board chair Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

“It is easy to forget that parks are more than green space and contain a wealth of income generators, many of which have been impacted by the coronavirus and will continue to feel the effects for years to come.

“The list of benefits, not just to people but wildlife, fauna and air quality, cannot be overstated. It is crucial that the government ensures our beautiful parks receive investment for preservation and enhancement.”

Image credit | iStock