Friends or frenemies? The increasing influence of user groups in London’s urban green space management

Authors: Meredith Whitten*, London School of Economics
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Landscape, Urban Geography
Keywords: urban green space, urban parks, governance, planning, landscape
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Urban green spaces play a critical role in the economic, environmental and social sustainability of cities, including London, where 47 percent of the city is considered green. These spaces provide essential environmental services, contribute to quality of life and are popular with local residents. However, despite the wide-ranging benefits urban green spaces offer, a dedicated, sustainable stream of funding for green space delivery and management does not exist for London’s green spaces. Austerity measures implemented in the UK from 2010 exacerbated pressure on already-stretched local authority budgets and led to deep cuts for nonstatutory services, such as green space delivery and management. In response, local authorities – the traditional manager and funder of green spaces – have looked elsewhere for continued management and maintenance of these spaces. As such, they largely have turned to local user, or friends, groups to take on increased responsibility for London’s green spaces. Yet, while civic society can fill a gap left by councils, this expanded governance raises questions about representation and presents challenges for the long-term viability of London’s urban green spaces. Drawing from interviews conducted with local council staff and representatives from user groups, as well as a review of planning and policy documents, this research examines the influences on the increasing community involvement in management of London’s urban green spaces and provides insight into the benefits and challenges for ensuring that publicly accessible urban green space remains an enduring part of life in Britain.

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