Our green spaces more than ever provide a crucial community ballast, where we can come together, build relationships and reverse society’s long-term journey towards individualism and isolation. These are the places – be it a large park, a small play area, woodland or waterway – where people walk their dogs, greet their neighbours, play with their children; they are where we go to take exercise or take time to reflect.
But they are increasingly under threat. Central government funding for local authorities has fallen by around 40 per cent, leaving councils without the means to adequately maintain facilities or engage with local people. Spending on parks is predicted to be reduced by 60 per cent by 2020.
So the next government is going to have to find ways of keeping our green, outdoor spaces open to all during an extended period of austerity. But it’s going to have to do more than this: it needs to make them accessible arenas for active citizenship. There is an opportunity to manage our green space in such way that empowers citizens, bolsters people’s sense of place and encourages democratic engagement.