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Architects on aid mission to Sudan CABE warns of maintenance skills crisis for public parks

A team of architects and designers has been flown out to Sudan to help tackle the humanitarian disaster facing hundreds of thousands of refugees driven from their homes by civil war.

Organised by the New Yorkbased charity Architecture for Humanity, the group will spend two weeks working on the assessment and strategic planning of existing refugee camps along the western border of the war-torn country.

The civilian death toll in Sudan's Darfur area has risen to almost 100,000, and the size of the camps has more than doubled in the last month.

The refugees are now facing hunger, disease and a lack of clean water, and seasonal rain has also hampered access for humanitarian aid organisations.

The team of architects will consult with relief agencies in a bid to relieve some of the immediate and long-term problems in the area.

Founded in 1999 by Cameron Sinclair, who trained as an architect in London, Architecture for Humanity has already helped design a mobile health clinic to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as transitional housing for Kosovo's returning refugees.

Maintenance of public green spaces is in crisis because of an acute shortage of skilled park professionals, CABE has claimed in a new report published this week.

Research conducted by CABE Space, the Parks Agency and English Heritage, among others, indicates that park and green-space professionals are 'literally a dying breed'.

Most skilled workers within the parks sector are approaching retirement, says the People Need Parks report. The failure to recruit young staff is attributed to poor career prospects and low pay.

The problem is exacerbated by the perception that park-keeping is 'mundane, physical, menial and boring', the report continues.

Although green spaces define the quality of urban and rural communities, planning and management is increasingly handicapped by poor staff recruitment and retention, Edward Hobson, CABE Space deputy director, told the AJ.

'Maintenance must be prioritised alongside important skills like architecture, engineering and town planning, ' he said. 'Factors such as compulsory tendering, where green-space maintenance is farmed out to private contractors, has led to professional park-keeping skills going by the by.' CABE Space, together with a range of partners, has pledged to publish a strategy addressing the problem later this year.

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