Sheffield Council promise not to sell off park land or buildings

Sheffield Council has insisted they will not sell park land – the ‘jewel in the their green crown’ – after concerns they would.

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for parks and leisure
Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for parks and leisure

Residents were concerned the ruling Labour group were planning to sell off park land to save money to cope with the pressures of austerity.

Sheffield has 74 public parks and nearly 1,000 other green spaces across the city but the parks and countryside service has seen its budget cut by 30 per cent over recent years.

But at an economic and environmental scrutiny meeting where a better parks strategy was discussed, officers and cabinet confirmed they would be protecting land and buildings.

James Barnes, parks and countryside officer, said: “It’s quite clear in the policy that we are not looking at selling any park land. We have agreed that no land or buildings will be sold, we are looking to lease some but that is all. 

“The main reason for this is, if we lease the land the money would be ringfenced to go back into parks but if we sell it the likelihood is that would be put into an investment fund.”

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for parks and leisure, added: “Everybody knows we lost funding for parks since the Government introduced austerity and it’s got to the point where we need to readdress this but this does not mean selling the park land or buildings.”

The council are working on a five year strategy to raise more money for parks.

It is estimated around £8 million – the highest amount of investment in decades – could be available across the city for parks over the coming years.

But despite promising they would not sell park land, some residents were not convinced.

Mike Hodson, of Carter Knowle and Millhouses Community Group, said in a report published by the council it stated: “’The strategy is intended to be used as a framework for decision-making, to assist with maximising the benefits derived from our land and property portfolio… making land and property available for new homes or businesses; or disposing of low recreational value land or property to generate new income’.”

He added that councils elsewhere in the country had sold park land to developers. 

Mr Hodson said: “Until they explain how these assurances can be reconciled with the actual wording in the strategy and with their actions in the past, people are going to remain sceptical.

“I think we all want our council to be honest with us – not soft-soaping us to stave off awkward questions.”