Open Letter to Birmingham
Thursday 22nd December 2016
The proposed cuts to Birmingham's Parks and Nature Conservation budget will have a detrimental impact on the quality and accessibility of the wonderful parks in our city. To secure these spaces for now and future generations there must be investment but it is not realistic to expect the funding to come solely from the decreasing local authority parks budgets. Everyone benefits from the natural spaces of our city. We need to start a conversation about a new way to fund the essential lungs of our city. Below is an open letter to Birmingham calling for this conversation to begin signed by 35 organisations including national, regional and community groups.
If you would like to get involved please take the Pledge for the Natural Environment to show your support.
An Open Letter to Birmingham
We are concerned that the proposed 20 percent cut to the Parks and Nature Conservation budget for Birmingham City Council will damage our communities, increase the need for future spending on health and reduce investment in our city in addition to the inevitable decline in the quality of our green spaces for people and reduced habitat for wildlife.
The natural world is more fundamental to our health, wealth and happiness than the economy. It is the world that sustains us, and upon which all economic activity depends. At present, this contribution is neither recognised nor valued by our economic structures leading to short sighted, compartmentalised thinking.
The natural environment drives investment. The value of any property you can think of will increase when close to a park, lake or natural landscape.
The parks and green infrastructure of our city provide spaces for physical activity, communities to come together, children to play, carbon sequestration, flood alleviation and a contribution to improved air quality. Healthy, happy and engaged communities rely on a healthy environment. As Dr William Bird, CEO and founder of Intelligent Health, has stated: “simply looking [at] a tree is good for us”.
It is fundamental to the sustainable economic growth of Birmingham that these green spaces are managed. This costs money. The city benefits from many thousands of hours of volunteer time every year to improve parks and green spaces. The Nature Improvement Area attracted hundreds of thousands of pounds to improve green spaces. Friends groups play a vital role in maintaining these spaces adding significant value to the parks budget but there must be an infrastructure including front line staff to support them. Volunteers and charities cannot be expected to carry the cost of managing the beautiful parks and green spaces we are so fortunate to have in Birmingham.
We recognise there has been a significant decrease in funding to the city and that difficult decisions have been made resulting in cuts across all non-statutory services. The vision and strategy accompanying the budget recognises the need to make the most of the city’s assets, but misses the crucial point that parks and green spaces are a major asset that require investment to realise the true benefits.
The Vision 2020 states ‘growth comes from investment’. Investing in green space accessible to everyone must be a priority that will make this city more attractive to investment, to people and business. The opposite is also true. Not investing will mean our green spaces deteriorate becoming overgrown with unseen areas that attract crime and anti-social behaviour. Front line staff (rangers and park keepers) are essential to the management of these spaces.
Birmingham’s parks and green spaces today are a source of our civic pride; they are the lungs of our city, a shared identity and the centre of many communities. We urge the council to rethink the immediate budget cuts to parks and green spaces.
Long term a more fundamental shift is required to secure these vital spaces. We need a different model. We all benefit from these green spaces: individuals, businesses, public health, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Looking to the future investment must come from all sectors, not reside with the city council Parks and Nature Conservation budget: everyone who lives here, works here, cares about or runs a business here benefits from a healthy natural environment and must be prepared to support and invest in our green spaces.
Chief Executive Officer, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country
Chair, The Birmingham & Black Country Local Nature Partnership
Chair, The Birmingham & Black Country Nature Improvement Area
Dr Ewan Hamnett
Champion for Physical Activity for the City of Birmingham
Board Member UK Active
Director, Northfield Ecocentre
Birmingham Open Spaces Forum
National Federation of City Farms and Gardens
Director, Martineau Gardens
Chair, Birmingham Civic Society
Councillor Ian Cruise
Independent - Longbridge Ward
Director, Forest Schools Birmingham CIC
Director, Outdoor Learning UK
Chair, Kingstanding Regeneration Trust
Chair, Birmingham Trees for Life
Regional Director, RSPB Midlands
Chair, Friends of Kings Norton Local Nature Reserve
CEO, Sustainability West Midlands
Professor Ian Trueman
Chair, Birmingham and Black Country Botanical Society
Cycle South Brum
Campaigns Support Worker, Birmingham Friends of the Earth
Northfield Constituency Environmental Forum
Maggie and Clive Sweet
The Fields Millennium Green Trust
West Midlands Friends of the Earth Regional Campaigner
Chair of the Lickey Hills Society
Chair of the Lickey Hills Joint Consultative Committee
The Friends of Balaam's Wood Local Nature Reserve
Environmental Lead, Friends of Bournville Park
Friends of Leyhill Park
Director, Sustainable Life
Trustee; Kingstanding Food Community Project and The Big Seed Give Away
The Orchard Project
WatersideCare Project Officer
Development Officer, Balsall Heath Is Our Planet