'Placing value' : reframing conceptions of the importance of the community park
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In the UK, urban parks face a precarious future and, with projected cuts of over 65% to local authority discretionary funding (Local Government Association, 2012:2), it is ever more important to understand their value. This study interrogates the value of these resources from the perspective of the individual and, through a mixed method comparative case study of two community parks in Leeds, West Yorkshire, identifies four key challenges to existing framings of their significance. Drawing on primary observational, social survey and interview data, boundaries constructed between forms of value are, firstly, problematized with fluidity recognised between use and non-use aspects. Secondly, a range of previously-omitted past-related values are identified. Negative elements of significance are, then, thirdly, highlighted as heavily interwoven with positive accounts of importance and emphasised as key omissions in prior representations of value. Before, finally, value is stressed as spatially relative, with comparison with other leisure resources noted as an inherent facet of accounts. Taken together, these challenges demarcate an individual perspective of value as notably distinct from those levelled at other scales, such as the firm or community, as it emphasised that, from this perspective, the value of a resource must be rethought as a relational property created in the interaction between people and their environment, rather than an absolute property assigned to a space. Organisations, such as Nesta (Neal, 2013:21) have emphasised a need to ‘rethink’ the funding and management of urban parks, moving towards “mixed funding models”, incorporating some level of community voluntarism. This assumed involvement is, however, premised on community engagement which is far from certain. As such, there is a pressing need to understand the value attached to urban parks to understand the scope for expectations of voluntarism to be truly fulfilled.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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