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De-municipalisation? Legacies of austerity for England's urban parks

Smith, Andrew, Whitten, Meredith ORCID: 0000-0002-2738-0838 and Ernwein, Marion (2023) De-municipalisation? Legacies of austerity for England's urban parks. Geographical Journal. ISSN 0016-7398

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Identification Number: 10.1111/geoj.12518


Parks are important urban infrastructures that contribute a broad range of health, environmental, social, and economic benefits. Despite this, UK parks' status as non-statutory services makes them particularly vulnerable to local authority budget cuts. This paper focuses on parks in English cities as these were particularly affected by severe cuts to local government budgets 2010–2019. This period of austerity affected parks provision in various ways, including service reductions, increased reliance on volunteer labour, and pressure to generate commercial revenue. Combined with a series of other factors, including ongoing neoliberalisation, austerity-driven changes left a range of physical, social, and institutional legacies. This paper explores these using the notion of de-municipalisation to frame the discussion. The paper is based on an innovative synthesis of research conducted by the authors 2016–2022 and presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in 2021. The paper identifies that austerity-driven changes included an experimental ‘shaking up’ of park governance, away from local authorities and with greater involvement from national-level NGOs. Changes also involved a ‘breaking down’ of municipal management, with responsibility delegated to dedicated parks trusts but also to community groups and volunteers. Ultimately, austerity 2010–2019 altered parks governance, transforming the stewardship and condition of parks, reducing accountability and accessibility, and exacerbating inequities in parks provision. Rather than representing new directions, these changes perpetuate those instigated in previous austerity eras. The noted trend towards de-municipalisation also reduces parks' capacity to serve as integrated infrastructures – something that may hinder efforts to make cities more sustainable and resilient.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 04 May 2023 23:18
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 02:42

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