Friday 14 June 2024
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Nottingham’s green space strategy questioned because of budget cuts

Plans to further expand Nottingham’s parks and waterways have been questioned following huge cuts to the city council’s budget.

The city has 128 parks and 12 nature reserves, plus outdoor gyms, play and sports areas.

Around 90 per cent are managed by the council.

The authority has set out a new plan to increase local green space – meaning the amount of parks and waterway in the city would go from 38 per cent of overall space to 40 per cent.

Around £1m has been granted by the Government, National Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund to help deliver improvements and research on the future of parks.

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However, the plan also states the authority is also looking to “provide a more financially sustainable delivery model for Nottingham’s green space and natural environment.”

During a Communities and Environment Scrutiny Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 5, council officers behind the scheme were questioned whether the priority would be financial sustainability or environmental sustainability.

Cllr Sam Gardiner (Lab), the deputy chair of the committee, repeatedly asked: “Which is more important in this strategy that you’ve been designing?”

Eddie Curry, the head of green space and natural environment, said: “The bottom line for us is we always need to have financial sustainability at the bottom of all our strap-lines.

“They are equally weighted rather than one or the other. But clearly we can continue to drive forwards in our service which is challenged by the finances, there is no doubt about it.

“The strategy is very much focused on how we can become more financially sustainable through partnership working and extra sponsorship, but actually that is not at the expense of selling off our assets or depleting the quality of our green spaces.

“We are very much focused on both of those at the same time.”

In November the council declared itself effectively bankrupt over a multi-million pound budget deficit, and commissioners were appointed in February to oversee improvements.

To help it set a balanced budget and four-year financial plan, councillors approved a review of its green spaces and natural environment in March.

Documents state the review would result in a wide range of service reductions and eight job losses in the department to help save £254,000.

Cllr Gardiner also asked whether green guardians – volunteers who help improve the local environment – were being used to bridge any gaps in the frontline workforce and said: “Are they being used to replace some of the frontline cuts we are seeing to our services?”

Mr Curry replied: “No, absolutely not. The green guardian programme has been able to provide added value.”

Cllr Sam Lux (Lab), the executive member for carbon reduction, leisure and culture, added: “I think it is a false dichotomy on the whole to say either we choose financial sustainability or environmental sustainability.

“There are plenty of examples where you can do both. I think what they are saying is we don’t have the budget we used to but then also we are not going to stop and give up our ambition, but we are going to be even more ambitious and think creatively and do things completely differently.”

The new parks strategy also forms a part of the council’s overall goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2028.

•  Nottingham: City council unveils Greenspace strategy as a three-year programme

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