Telegraph View: Time to rethink park funding

Nancy Fielder
Nancy Fielder

There is serious food for thought in the park figures we bring you today.

The ‘city of two halves’ accusation is not one of my favourites. It is often used - but I haven’t heard it applied to parks before.

It isn’t difficult to see that those who live near and love the Botanical Gardens are much more able to fundraise. Some parks are simply better placed than others.

Look at the finances on Pages 6 and 7 though and it clearly is true.

Few would dispute the wonders that parks can bring to people, in everything from fitness and mental wellbeing to simple joy. So let me play devil’s advocate. Is it right that two thirds of this city’s park money is being spent on the Botanical Gardens?

Shouldn’t we, looking at Sheffield as a whole, put the cash where it is most needed? Don’t we need to worry more about supporting the child who lives in Firth Park rather than Endcliffe or Broomhill, knowing there are fewer people fighting for them?

It isn’t difficult to see that those who live near and love the Botanical Gardens are much more able to fundraise. Some parks are simply better placed than others.

The logical conclusion would then surely be for a rallying call to help the Botanical Gardens depend less on council money.

In turn, that would help the parks with residents who just do not have the money to do it themselves.

I can hear the cries of outrage as I write. I understand the Botanical Gardens protect amazingly unique horticulture, but that doesn’t change the basic inequality.

Also, most people stick to their local parks most of the time. So while the pavilions are a wonder, they aren’t truly accessible to most Sheffield people - or at least aren’t actually accessed.

You could argue the gardens are such an attraction they bring tourists, boosting the local economy. Or you could see that as another potential stream of income not open to other parks. Check out the condition of play areas in our poorest areas and then let me know if this city needs to challenge how we fund and make the best of all our parks.