VISITORS to Sheffield’s green spaces will be charged for car-parking, sports teams’ fees will rise, and bowling greens could close under a swathe of cuts to the city’s parks.
No more funding for community environment projects, and fewer parks staff, are also among proposals for Sheffield Council to save £1.2 million from its £7m annual parks budget from April.
The council said it is ‘considering streamlining’ how it manages parks by ‘merging and reducing some teams of staff’.
Today park users reacted angrily to the ideas - part of £57 million of council savings which must be made in the next year.
Paul Webster, of the Meadowhall Sunday League, whose footballers face rises for council pitches from £505 to £577 a season, said: “They call Sheffield a City of Sport - but only if you can afford it.
“We currently have five divisions but I can see us losing one next season. A lot of clubs are already struggling and several have folded. There have already been rises in costs for refereeing, first aid, kit washing and insurance, when many players are unemployed or students. With the recession, sponsorship is also becoming difficult.”
Andy Down, of the Imperial League, which has 60 teams in five divisions, added: “I think this will see more clubs going to the wall.”
And Brian Pilkington, secretary of Firth Park FC, which plays at Parson Cross Park, said: “As many as 50 or 60 clubs could fold. Subs will have to go up when people are losing their jobs and can’t afford it.”
Car parking charges for park visitors - of 40p per hour, and £2 a day - are set to be introduced at Graves, Hillsborough and Millhouses parks.
John Brighton, secretary of The Friends of Millhouses Park group, said: “It’s regrettable and will mean a lot of people parking on the streets instead.
“But we hope the charge will not put people off visiting - and might avoid a cut in the number of council staff looking after the park.”
Funding for litter-picks and community Environment Weeks, and for local groups which enter In Bloom competitions, will end completely.
Howard House, secretary of Chapeltown In Bloom and Burncross Action Team, which last year won Silver Gilt at the Yorkshire regional In Bloom awards, said: “It will mean some In Bloom groups cannot carry on.
“The two groups I am involved with receive £500 to £1,000 from the council each year which accounts for a quarter of their income - and council funds are necessary to bid for money from other sources, so we could lose out even further.”
Grant-aid for community groups working in parks, and for wildlife organisations, will be reduced by 10 per cent.
Roy Mosley, head of operations at Sheffield Wildlife Trust, said: “The trust’s 5,000 members, and the public, really value Sheffield’s green environment, which in many ways is the city’s most important asset and what sets it apart from other major cities.
“For every £1 the trust receives from the council it generates over 20 times that amount, so even a 10 per cent cut will have a disproportionately high effect.”
Sheffield Council said bowling greens with two or more pitches could see the number of greens reduced - though no sites will close altogether.
Rises in allotment fees, which have already been announced, are set to go ahead.
Charges for junior sports teams to use council pitches would go up in line with inflation - 4.8 per cent in December.
And a ‘modest rise’ in the cost of burials, from £645 to £690, and cremations from £521 to £555, is also proposed.
OPPOSITION councillors have questioned why the parks and green spaces budget is being hit ‘disproportionately’ with a funding cut of nearly a fifth - when other areas are being subjected to much smaller reductions.
Lib Dem leader on Sheffield Council, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, said: “For parks to be taking a cut of nearly 20 per cent while most departments face savings of only half that seems unfair.
“Despite years of hard work by volunteers and local groups to make Sheffield the greenest city in the country, Labour councillors seem intent on attacking our parks and open spaces.”
But Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for environment, said: “These proposals would help us reduce our spending but trying to do as much as we can with the funding we believe we can afford next year.
“As always we want to hear what local people and user groups think and hear any proposals they have to save or generate funds next year.”
40p - hourly parking charge to be introduced at Graves, Hillsborough and Millhouses parks
17 per cent - cut to spending for next financial year
£72 - increase in pitch fees for each football club
£45 - rise in cost of burials
£34 - increase in cremation fees
£0 - what community environment and In Bloom projects are to receive from Sheffield Council in future.
Should parking charges be introduced at Millhouses Park?
Peter Morton, aged 77, Millhouses, a retired engineer
“No - people will just park on the road or, if they live close by like myself, walk.”
Ian Morton, aged 38, Carterknowle, a railway consultant
“The idea will be counter-productive. It will make the surrounding streets an absolute nightmare with parked cars.”
Grant Blackwell, aged 57, Woodseats, a consultant
“It’s an outrageous plan. Life’s hard enough - parks should be somewhere to get away from the stresses of everyday life, like parking charges.”
Chris Hector, aged 46, Woodseats, a policeman
“Charges would stop people visiting parks - if you want people to come, you have to make it affordable. Some people might also not have change with them to pay. It will make parks less appealing.”