VOLUNTEERS helping to look after Sheffield’s parks and green spaces are planning to form a ‘powerful’ city-wide lobbying organisation.
The proposals were discussed at a meeting of the Friends of Green Spaces, attended by about 50 people from groups around Sheffield.
The idea was raised by a visiting speaker from Birmingham Open Spaces Forum.
Friends groups are divided about the idea, with some keen on setting up a city-wide group as a way of helping to seek a better deal for parks and mitigate the impact of Government cuts, and others fearful of the resources it might tie up.
The Friends of Green Spaces meeting heard from three council speakers – community partnerships manager Karen Lewis, cabinet member for culture Coun Isobel Bowler and director of culture and environment Paul Billington.
They said parks face more funding cuts which could mean changes, such as areas of larger parks being treated as ‘managed meadows’ where grass is cut less often.
Tim Neal, chairman of the Friends of Abbeyfield Park in Burngreave, said: “There is an urgent need for voluntary groups to take part in park maintenance, make funding bids and organise volunteer groups in order to keep parks in the decent state they are in now.
“On a practical level, a city-wide group could, like the Allotment Association, offer easier and cheaper insurance deals for voluntary groups.
“Such a group could also have a powerful lobbying voice with the council as it would be able to better represent the views and priorities of parks across Sheffield rather than individual groups.”
John Brighton, of the Friends of Millhouses Park, said: “A city-wide organisation would provide a powerful lobby for dealing with the council and allow parks groups to have a strong voice.
“However, it would be a double-edged sword because groups like ours would have to set aside time to work as part of the organisation when all our time is currently spent on Millhouses Park.”
Plans will be discussed at a further meeting of Sheffield Friends of Green Spaces in January.
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