St Helens ranger service still at risk ahead of parks review

A review into the future of parks and green spaces is being undertaken in St Helens
A review into the future of parks and green spaces is being undertaken in St Helens
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A fresh review into the future of parks and green spaces is being undertaken in St Helens.

St Helens Council launched a public consultation in January on the future of the borough’s open spaces, which included proposals to cut the ranger service.

A formal decision to maintain the ranger service has now been taken by the council through delegated powers, while it undertakes a new strategic review of parks and green spaces.

However, the decision notice says the ranger service could still be at risk in the future if the review fails to come up with an equivalent saving.

The proposals to axe the ranger service was met with overwhelming opposition from the public, with 90 per cent of respondents to the consultation opposing the plans.

Additionally, the council says new evidence from The Mersey Forest has, for the first time, identified the “true value” of parks and green spaces in St Helens.

The delegated decision notice says: “The ranger service plays a key role in the provision of the service and it is considered prudent to retain the existing ranger service until the outcome of the future strategy review is known and confirmed.

“As part of the review of parks and green spaces and the ranger service, a green infrastructure assessment carried out by The Mersey Forest shows, for the first time, the range of environmental services and social benefits that are provided and, the economic value that is generated, by parks and green spaces in the borough.

“Parks and green spaces play an important role in contributing to the quality of life and place for the borough and can help to achieve many of the corporate objectives.”

The council says there is now a “strong evidence base” to support a wide range of benefits green spaces can provide.

These include improving peoples’ physical and mental health and wellbeing; encouraging inward investment; improving the borough’s image and increasing tourism; improving ecological networks, biodiversity and the structure of habitats and enhancing air quality.

The council says this new information will help direct the future strategy of its parks and green spaces provision.

There had been fears the council would axe the remaining four park rangers following the conclusion of the public consultation earlier this year.

However, in May council leader Derek Long vowed to protect the service.

One month later, it was confirmed that the remaining park rangers had been told their redundancy notices had been cancelled.

Following the consultation, a collaborative group from service areas across the council that have a vested interest in parks and green spaces was set up to contribute to a strategic review of the service.

Mersey Forest has been commissioned to assist in the process and to create a vision document and outline strategic framework for parks and green spaces in St Helens.

The existing ranger service will be funded using money from the council’s community improvement reserve.