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 are the only independent, nationwide organisation solely dedicated to parks.
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Welcome to Our May Newsletter
It’s been a busy month for The Parks Alliance. Whilst work carries on across the Parks Action Group parks related policy and activity continues apace. In this month’s newsletter we focus on the recent work by the Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project led by Sheffield University with a focus on health and parks; the new Leeds Parks Fund seeking to increase philanthropic funding and public donations to support parks; the work of the Environment Commission in London that has recently completed a Review of London’s Parks and Green Spaces and the research just published by Fields In Trust that shows millions of people across the country find themselves with not a single park or green space within a ten-minute walk.
We continue to develop the web site and TPA social media presence. We will soon launch our monthly ‘policy blog’ that will highlight key issues for parks policy and get the views of a range of people from across the sector. Next month we will be launch our campaign to support the case for parks we are developing with the PAG.
Finally, check out the poem by Jennifer Munro and inspired by her memories of Barking Park.
As ever please encourage your work colleagues, friends and family to sign up the news letter. The more supporters we can recruit the stronger our case – that parks really matter.
The Parks Alliance Team
The Parks Action Group Update
The PAG, which is comprised of a Cross-Government group of senior officials and a sectoral group (with project management from The Parks Alliance) have been taking forward the recommendations of the Select Committee report into public parks in England published in 2017.
May saw the skills work stream meet in Leicester with colleagues from De Montford University. The ‘Green Print’ for the development of skills for parks practitioners is being finalised prior to consultation in the near future. Work on standards for parks as part of Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Standards moves forward with a focus on developing standards to ensure existing parks and green spaces, and not just new developments, are managed and maintained in a way to deliver the full range of benefits possible. The mycommunity web site will soon include all the tools needed for increasing community empowerment in relation to parks. Preliminary work on the business case for parks (Parks Count) has begun with the overall approach agreed and evidence collection on-going. This will be supported by the forthcoming campaign #makeparkscount.
Finally there is a formal meeting of the Parks Action Group in early June with the Minister Rishi Sunak in attendance. This meeting will take stock of progress and map out the next steps for the group. The next issue of the newsetter will contain more informaiton.
Improving Well Being Through Urban Nature
Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) is a three year research project to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health and well being of the city’s residents, and especially those with disproportionately high levels of poor health. The project, led by Dr Anna Jorgensen at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, brings academics from the universities of Sheffield, Derby, and Heriot-Watt together with the Wildlife Trusts, Recovery Enterprises and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. The project is about to finish and the research has clearly shown that parks and green spaces can have a real impact on the health and well being of diverse urban populations. But importantly it also underlines that investment is needed in the organisations and people that activate and utilise parks to support communities – without them these valuable benefits provided by parks will not be secured and the full value of them not realised. Consequently the researchers have called upon NHS clinical commissioning groups and GPs to support their local communities and help them tackle some of the financial and service pressures they are facing (see here).
The project has also published a set of really useful guides for practitioners who wish to develop health based interventions in parks and green space. The guides for people working in health care, local government planners and policy makers, greenspace managers and voluntary and community groups can be found here.
For more information on the research and its finding go to the IWUN web site http://iwun.uk/.
Rethinking Parks: The Role and Place of Charitable Giving
At the end of April Leeds University, in partnership with Leeds Community Foundation, Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum and Leeds City Council, held a workshop to present the findings of the research by the University into charitable giving for parks. The Leeds Park Fund has been set up by the partners as part of Nesta’s Rethinking Parks programme and aims to provide new ways for local people and businesses to donate towards community led improvements and enhancements to parks in the city. The Leeds Park Fund can be found here.
The workshop allowed a range of stakeholders from across the city to discuss the findings of the research and consider ways in which the Leeds Parks Fund should develop and how the learning could help shape similar initiatives in the UK. The researchers found that local people and businesses generally thought that donations were important but should not replace statutory funding, that people tended to want clarification on exactly what their donation would contribute to and that voluntary donations should fund additional parks project whilst general maintenance and basic facilities should be improved alongside. The final research reports are planned to be published by the end of May. Published research to date can be found here.
How local people and businesses can contribute to their local parks and green spaces is a central feature of the debate about future parks funding and operations. This was reflected in the panel discussion which covered how communities can assume greater control over their parks and green spaces, how the time and resources they wish to commit and be effectively harnessed alongside the rightful responsibilities of local councils and land owners. One interesting way of harnessing these different interests is through crowdfunding. The Parks Alliance will cover this issue in later editions but in the meantime check out these parks projects on the Spacehive platform.
London’s Environment Commission – Lessons for beyond the capital?
The Mayor of London has set up an Environment Commission to help support London boroughs transform how their parks services are managed and funded so that they can maintain or increase investment in parks and green spaces, in the context of substantial and ongoing constraints imposed on public sector funding. The Commission will use knowledge of the economic value of London’s public green spaces to demonstrate the need for continued investment. Providing a broad partnership of decision-makers who support London’s public parks it will help develop and test sustainable business models for parks services in partnership with boroughs. The Commission is about to start hearing evidence and has opened here that will run to 4th June.
As part of its review the Commission asked Parks for London to undertake a review of of London’s parks and green spaces: strategy, governance and value. The report makes some very important points in relation to future funding and investment into parks that local authorities up and down the country can learn from. In particular the report finds “The lack of a robust evidence base makes it hard for local authorities to demonstrate value for money or overcome the perception that ‘parks’ do not require ongoing investment. Therefore, the need to raise the profile of green spaces, including how they support other council strategies and services, is important. Revealing the economic value of parks by supporting natural capital accounting and explaining the concept to decision makers would help the process”. This reflects one of the recommendations of the Select Committee Inquiry into Public Parks for decision makers to properly take into account the true value of parks when making financing decisions. This is why the PAG and TPA are preparing the Business Case for Parks.
Following years of austerity and significant cuts to parks services it is now imperative that a strong case is made for investing in parks in every local authority and at a national scale. The results of London’s Environment Commission may offer a template for others to follow in the future.
New research finds 2.5 million Brits without nearby park or green space
Over 2.5 million people across Great Britain are more than ten-minutes walk from a park or green space, according to new research from the charity Fields in Trust. The charity has developed the Green Space Index which, for the first time uses new Ordnance Survey data to comprehensively analyse park and green space provision across Great Britain.
The Green Space Index shows that although Britain has a total of 216,160 hectares of publicly accessible local parks and green spaces (about one and a half times the size of London), less than 6% of this space (smaller than the size of the London Borough of Bromley) is legally protected with Fields in Trust. With public sector cuts leading to pressure on parks and green spaces, there is the risk that a lack of legal protection could lead to more being sold off or developed. The findings show that there is an urgent need to ensure the current level of park and green space provision is maintained and review what more can be done to legally protect them for future generations to enjoy.
For more information go to the Fields In Trust web site here.
A plug for our friends at NFPGS
The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces (www.natfedparks.org.uk) is the umbrella organisation that aims to amplify the voices of Friends Groups across the UK. The Federation works with the dynamic and inspirational grassroots movement of over 6,000 local Friends of Parks groups, supporting volunteers who act on behalf of the communities who use and care about our vital public green spaces of all kinds. They exist to represent their activities, issues and concerns, and strengthen their passionate and knowledgeable voices.
This year they have some exciting developments happening for community green space volunteers, including a series of seven national conferences organised with Parks Action Group partners, Locality and Groundwork. They are also aiming to increase the number of community groups who are signed up to our newsletter. Please encourage green space volunteer groups in your area to sign up here: http://eepurl.com/go8KoH. For more information about the NFPGS visit their website or contact Michelle, Networks Coordinator at email@example.com.
A poem by Jennifer Munro
Step into the park
The pace of life
Moves down a notch or two
As if the greater space
Allows a deeper, slower breath;
Permits an ambling gait
Beneath a wide expansive sky
In place of hasty steps
Under broken fragments,
The sound of traffic dies away,
Muffled by the barrier
Of shrubs and trees;
But other sounds come into focus
That signal recreation
For the body and the soul;
Water lapping up against a rowing boat,
A cricket ball striking a hardwood bat,
Children’s voices raised –
Not in anger, but in playful mood,
On swings and slides
Or splashing in the pool
Step into the park
The bustling city streets
Are a million miles away
From the pocket of tranquility
Encompassing the lake
Where, reflected in the ripples,
A swan glides gracefully, serenely by;
And fronds of weeping willow
Trail gently on the surface
And a thousand tiny droplets,
Like nature’s chandelier,
Shower from an oar
As it rises from the water.
And on the slow and inward breath
The scent of flowers
And close-clipped grass
Around the formal beds
Assails the nostrils;
Time out, a retreat
From perpetual motion,
A re-charging of batteries
Before engaging once again
With the world outside
Support The Parks Alliance and support parks
As the only the independent, nationwide organisation solely dedicated to parks our mission is to provide a voice for UK parks and represent 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 aim to achieve this by:-
providing national leadership to the sector and influence government, business and civil society on the policy, financial and regulation issues affecting parks.
providing access to key parks related information for the parks sector.
carrying out research and analysis to provide robust evidence for policy changes that work for government, business, the public and the parks sector.
We aim to do this by:-
Co-ordinating access to parks related services and data provided by our supporters and others enabling all those with an interest in parks to find the support and information they need quickly and easily
Collaborating with the leaders of the major parks related NGOs, funding bodies, charities and industry bodies facilitating joint messages to government, ensuring views on important parks related issues are clearly represented and heard.
Campaigning for effective political leadership for the parks sector by advising on and influencing key political processes, and engaging and informing leading political thinkers and senior politicians on parks related issues.
So whether you are from a government department, a council officer, work for a NGOs, provide funds, work for a contractor, a member of a friends group or community organisations or just simply a resident who cares – we want to hear from you. If you have views on parks policy you want to share, interesting parks projects you want highlighted or simply want to share a great photo of your park or even a poem. Get in touch via the button below.