The Parks Alliance (TPA) is the voice of UK parks, representing the people and organisations that create, maintain, invest in and use the public
green spaces that we are proud to have at the heart of British life.
We hope you all had a good summer break and managed to enjoy some of the UK’s great parks! September was a busy month for The Parks Alliance! Here are this newsletter’s highlights:
We need you help to keep our #makeparkscount campaign going. Please help us if you can.
We take a look at the latest area based funding initiatives from the government and the prospects for parks.
We have published our latest blog on healthy parks so please take a look.
We tell the story about how parks are become a political priority in the USA and have a quick look at the last State of US Cities report.
You can find out about the exciting plans our friends at West Midlands Parks Forum have for expanding their activities.
Finally we take a look at some of the projects that are helping us Make Parks Count.
In October we’ll be highlighting the role that crowdfunding can play in supporting people and parks (see here for how £45,000 was raised for a community garden) and explore how parks can help tackle perhaps the biggest challenge of all – climate change.
Join the conversation
Find us on Twitter for the latest news, and join us on Instagram where we’ll soon be sharing more.
When Brexit finally happens (!?) and there is a general election and eventually a new government we will need to redouble our efforts to #makeparkscount and ensure parks receive the attention and investment they rightly deserve. The main funding supporting The Parks Alliance ends early next year even so we’d like to continue and hopefully expand our campaign. But we won’t be able to do that without your help. We will say a bit more about our plans next month but in the meantime if you want to help ensure we can continue our campaign year into next please donate whatever you can using the button below (you have to scroll down the page a bit when you get there!).
The Return of Place Based Funding – Are You Ready To Make the Case for Parks?
Back in February we posted a blog called A Place For Parks? We pondered what the increasing focus on the UK’s ‘left behind places’ meant for place based policy and where and how parks may have a key role to play. Well since then we’ve seen a bit of a splurge of Ministerial announcements on place based funding.
The £3.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund was originally launched in March. The fund will be allocated partly using a needs-based formula and partly through a competitive process. The towns eligible for support from the fund include places that have not always benefited from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas and local partnerships will have to draw up plans to transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. Clearly parks and the public realm have a key role to play in supporting economic growth in these towns.
In August the Future High Streets Fund was expanded to £1 billion. The fund is aimed at helping local leaders transform their high streets and town centres by investing in housing, workplaces, infrastructure and culture. One of the aims of the fund is to strengthen community assets like parks near or on High Streets. Apart from the economic arguments above there are clear health and well being benefits to be secured from quality parks near or on High Streets. Again its worth revisiting the Healthy High Streets report from Public Health England as well as Putting Health into Place from the NHS.
As we pointed out in our February Blog this focus on place reflects a steady return to place based policy approaches to tackling inequality and unequal growth. The long awaited (still waiting) consultation on the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund (the cash to replace European funding post Brexit) is likely to set out how money will flow to places considered as ‘left behind’. Finally, whatever government appears from the Brexit mists investment in infrastructure will be a priority. The contribution of parks as essential green infrastructure will be key and working to secure the right investment into parks essential. We will address this in a future issue.
There is an important place for parks in all likely future place based approaches to tackling the problems of the UK’s left behind communities. But there is also an important challenge. In these places someone needs to champion parks and work across organisations and sectors to secure the investment opportunities.
Why we need to make everyday urban nature amazing!
In our latest blog Dr Nicola Dempsey of Sheffield University and Dr Julian Dobson of Urban Pollinators talk about their work looking at green space interventions which bring potential positive mental health outcomes for local residents.
In the blog they explain how they talked to local practitioners, including parks managers, city planners, GPs, community health workers and local volunteer groups to identify a range of interventions covering green space maintenance and policy and social and healthcare interventions that would facilitate specific mental health initiatives in green spaces. From these they focus on the 5 key interventions found to be most beneficial for the mental health of urban residents. Find out more, including access to the excellent policy and practice briefs for people working on these issues on the Parks Alliance web site.
If you are working on similar projects and would like to share details of your work as part of our #makeparkscount campaign then please upload a short description of your project here.
Much like the US president’s State of the Union address, each year, Mayors across the USA detail the state of America’s cities in set piece speeches. Each year the National League of Cities’ publish a State of the Cities report based on an in-depth analysis of these speeches. The 2019 edition makes for interesting reading for those involved in parks.
Like in the UK public health is a key public policy issue and this is reflected in what US Mayors are talking about with nearly half discussing this issue at length – up from one third the year before. As the report picks out much of this shift is due to an increased focus on expanding parks and recreation-related facilities and activities in their towns and cities. Energy and the environment also rose in importance in 2019 with more than double the number of Mayors talking about these issues than the previous year. Their responses also included plans for improving neighbourhoods through expanded tree coverage and improved city landscapes. The State of US Cities Report 2019 can be found here.
So it seems parks are becoming an important policy tool for delivering on key health and environmental issues across cities in the USA. Is this mirrored in the UK? Its hard to tell as there is no equivalent data set although the prominence of parks across a number of key government policy initiatives provides hope. The role of the Future Parks Accelerator and the work of Nesta’s Rethinking Parks programme also highlight the potential of parks and work of a number of leading local authorities confirms this. However the case for parks needs to be continually made (see Place based article above!) if the level of investment needed to make them successful is to be secured.
The Midlands Parks Forum is currently evolving as Parks Officers from the West Midlands and the East Midlands are joining forces in an effort to develop wider opportunities for skills sharing and personal development. Members of both organisations recognise that as resources are becoming scarcer for parks professionals, that economies of scale should be considered to improve opportunities for the current networks to survive and grow. The Interim Board has been successful in securing funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop this proposal and have employed a part time Partnership Manager to deliver the concept.
They are currently recruiting new members from the East and the West Midlands, so if you would like a membership application form or further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: Alison Bate – Partnership Manager on 01562 887884
In the last issue we shared our plans for our Make Parks Count campaign. We asked for people to share their local parks projects where they are making positive contributions to health and well being or innovating to tackle some of the challenges their parks and their communities face. We thought we’d share a couple.
Worcester Woods Country Park (pictured left) shared how they are raising revenue from meeting room hire and working in partnership with café tenants to provide events and activities in the park. They also benefit from the sale of produce from the woodland, the hire of space for childcare facility, Scouts and community groups, parent and baby classes. In addition they provide advice/specialist work to local groups.
Buffery Park (picture right) is where the The Friends Group took on a derelict building in the park from the Council. The Group lets the space to a CIC who offers day centre space for people on personal budgets. the income from this arrangement is spent on the park, they now have a new tennis courts, outdoor gym and improved maintenance. The scheme was so successful the Council has been developing asset transfers on many of its properties in parks allowing local community run services to be developed ranging from bike repairs and horticultural training to supporting vulnerable people and providing health and fitness sessions.
Both great examples of how local people can #makeparkscount.
If you have great examples of health, environmental or community projects that run on parks and demonstrate the benefits of parks let us know. #makeparkscount
TPA Parks Blog
The Parks Alliance web site has started a monthly blog to explore current parks policy issues. You can find it here https://www.theparksalliance.org/blog/. We kicked off the blog with a piece on community engagement and will be covering health and funding in the coming months. If you want to contribute please contact at email@example.com with your idea.