Public parks could suffer from cuts to rangers

Volunteers from local business ResponsibleTravel.com, with ranger Neil Doyle
Volunteers from local business ResponsibleTravel.com, with ranger Neil Doyle

Cutting nine rangers to three will have "long-term consequences for the city".

Volunteers working with City Parks are worried cutting nine rangers to three will have long-term consequences for the city.

The city council set out plans to cut rangers by 60 per cent in its budget proposals.

The rangers have a number of roles, including maintaining open spaces, habitat protection, conservation, and guiding community groups to look after green spaces in the city.

They look after Stanmer Park, Wild Park, Bevendean Down, Preston Park, St Anne’s Wells Park, to name just a few.

Vivienne Barton, who volunteers with the rangers, said: “It will save £175,000-a-year, but it will cost the city far more in the long term.”

Cliff Munn, another volunteer who is set to speak at next week’s environment committee meeting, said: “Green spaces don’t look after themselves. There’s a comprehensive strategy to care for them, to improve them and to make them accessible to all; and it’s our rangers that deliver this strategy.

“They can’t physically do it all themselves, but they are extremely good at mobilising volunteers like us - and keeping us engaged.

“Left alone, most of these groups would probably cease to function. We are really worried that the proposed 60 per cent cut on this already very small team, will have profound consequences.”

Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “Nobody wants to contemplate budget cuts of this type and we are well aware of how valued this service is by local communities. However, with central government reducing the council’s grant to nearly zero by 2019/20 we have to find ways to close a £65 million spending gap.

“Discussions are ongoing in relation to the ranger service and the focus has always been on protecting the key areas of their work on conservation, support to volunteers and communities and Rights of Way.”

The volunteers will speak at the environment committee on Tuesday, about the importance of the ranger service, and campaigners are set to gather outside Portslade Town Hall before the meeting.

Chris Todd, from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, has written a piece on the importance of park rangers.