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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 08:43 GMT


English Heritage denies neglecting parks

The MPs want more National Lottery cash to be spent on parks

A conservation body has denied mistreating historic parks and gardens after MPs said the areas were subject to "appalling" neglect.

The MPs said the parks urgently needed more cash and accused English Heritage of failing to take "any interest" in protecting parks of special historic interest.

[ image: Parks were vital to New York's regeneration]
Parks were vital to New York's regeneration
The Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs committee called upon English Heritage to take its responsibility for parks "much more seriously".

It said the body "vigorously" protected historic buildings, but spending and staffing at parks "have been derisory".

But English Heritage fought back saying: "English Heritage takes its role in protecting the best of the nation's historic parks and gardens very seriously.

"We are as vigorous in our actions to secure their future as we are with historic buildings."

It agreed that more cash was needed to pour into park upkeep and said it was seeking funding from the National Lottery.

The MPs found a series of omissions in English Heritage's list of parks and gardens of historic interest during a visit to Greater Manchester.

Dereliction and decay

The BBC's Tim Hirsch: "Many parks have been plunged into a spiral of decline"
"We are appalled by English Heritage's neglect of parks and other designed landscapes," the MPs protested.

"It ought to survey all municipal parks over 30 years old to see if they ought to be included on its register."

English Heritage said: "The register identifies comprehensively those public parks and gardens of the greatest national importance.

"Many more parks are of great importance locally and, whilst they may not merit inclusion on our register, should certainly be identified valuable assets."

The MPs' rebuke came after the committee found many of Britain's 5,000 town and country parks were falling into dereliction and decay.

[ image: Peat bogs are being destroyed, an MP has warned]
Peat bogs are being destroyed, an MP has warned
The committee heard that national spending on parks had fallen since 1990 by £100m to £538m.

The MPs said: "Lack of funds leads to dereliction, and dereliction causes further expense; lack of funds prevents the further dereliction being promptly and appropriately attended to, and even more dereliction results."

Original features like statues, urns, fountains, greenhouses, cafes, and boat houses, had suffered from decay, neglect, vandalism, and poor repairs.

"It is clear that if nothing is done, many of them will become albatrosses around the necks of local authorities," the committee said.

The committee called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to pump a "substantial sum" from any new green tax into parks.

The committee said parks are "key features in the renaissance of our urban areas" and had been important in the regeneration of New York, Barcelona and Paris.

Cash from the National Lottery's New Opportunities fund should be earmarked for parks, the MPs said.

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