Health Secretary warns green spaces need protection for NHS

Health Secretary warns green spaces need protection for NHS

News - 07 November 2018

Health Secretary and Chair of NHS England join calls to save parks....

The decline of parks across Britain will pile more pressure on the NHS as it struggles to cope with an obesity crisis, the Health Secretary has warned.

Matt Hancock backed The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Parks campaign, saying: ‘The health of the nation is at stake.’

His intervention comes as the newspaper’s crusade to protect our precious parks gathers momentum in Westminster, with the Government giving in to demands for 100 new parks to be created. 

And in an exclusive article in Mail on Sunday the chairman of NHS England, Sir Malcolm Grant, also throws his weight behind the crusade to keep parks open and cared for.

Sir Malcolm warns that ‘poorly maintained parks and green spaces do little to invite walking or play’ while the nation’ s expanding waistlines ‘place a heavy burden on taxpayers’.

Mr Hancock spoke out: ‘If we do not do what is needed to support the parks we have – and make sure there are new parks where there is new housing – then it will undermine the health of the nation and increase the burden on the NHS in the long term. I want to see a healthier nation – and we need to support our parks and playgrounds to achieve this. ’

Thousands of parks are in decline or are being sold by cash-strapped councils. Hundreds of playgrounds have also closed. Mail on Sunday campaign was centre stage during a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons last week, with former Cabinet Minister John Hayes challenging the Government to build 100 parks.

He said: ‘Will the Housing Minister back The Mail on Sunday’s campaign to protect urban green spaces? Playing fields are places where people dance and play and meet friends and enjoy the open space. We need to protect them.’ 

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said he was developing the Government’s planning policy and ‘will take his [Mr Hayes’s] advice in doing so’. He said the Government aimed to build 200,000 homes in 23 garden towns by the middle of the century, adding: ‘I hope we might rise to his challenge of producing 100 new parks if each town had four.’

Chairman of BALI National Contractor' Forum, Phil Jones comments: "Parks and open spaces have never been more important than they currently are. Well maintained, safe, clean, horticulturally excellent parks play a central role in supporting the move to improve the health of our nation. BALI-NCF (National Contractor's Forum) members maintain some of the most historically important green spaces in the UK and the Forum supports the campaign to provide new open spaces and to protect (and improve funding for) existing green spaces. Sufficient and properly structured funding for the ongoing maintenance of parks is as important as providing more of them. All too often we see new green spaces created as a consequence of new developments, only to see them lack funding and go into decline. Providing new parks amongst new housing developments is vital, but the green spaces themselves must have proper infrastructure and be set in the right environment for them to be properly appreciated".

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