Could the health benefits of Norwich’s parks help stave off future cuts?

PUBLISHED: 14:45 23 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:50 23 March 2017

Runners at Eaton Park.

Runners at Eaton Park. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

The crucial role of Norwich’s parks in keeping people healthy could help save them from cuts in the future.

That’s according to city councillors, who are looking at whether they could use money earmarked for public health to spend on protecting parks.

When Norwich City Council agreed its budget last month, it included plans to save £125,000 in 2018/19 by reviewing what facilities are provided in parks, play areas and open spaces.

With money so tight, the council is looking at whether it might be able to use cash earmarked to combat obesity and ill-health to spend on parks.

Martin Schmierer, leader of the Green group, said City Hall should look at what Newcastle City Council is doing.

That authority is using millions of pounds of anti-obesity money from its public health budget to help keep its parks open.

The situation in Norfolk is a little more complicated, as it’s Norfolk County Council, not the city council which holds the public health purse-strings.

But Roger Ryan, Labour’s cabinet member for customer service and leisure at City Hall, said they were closely monitoring what was happening in Newcastle and would “steal their best ideas”.

He said: “The city is quite rightly proud of its parks and open spaces, with public satisfaction currently standing at 87.5pc.

“As facilities for play, leisure recreation or sport, Norwich’s parks are second to none.

“However, with the budget constraints faced by the council, different and innovative approaches need to be considered, including accessing external sources of funding and developing new partnerships so that these spaces can still be enjoyed by Norwich residents in the future.

“I am aware of what Newcastle is proposing and officers are monitoring developments and the feedback Newcastle City Council is receiving.”

He added the city council does already have a strong partnership with Norfolk public health and Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group to support use of parks.

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