Public parks must diversify their income if they are to remain free and open, states a new report published today by Nesta, Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.
‘Learning to Rethink Parks’ presents the lessons from Rethinking Parks, an 18 month programme designed to find and test ways for Britain’s parks to source new sustainable funding in the future.
Eleven UK parks received a share of £1m in grant funding and specialist support to explore new ways of raising income or reducing costs. Models tested included greater use of herbaceous and wild meadow planting, public donations, mobilising volunteers and friends groups to help with maintenance and even the creation of a pop-up meeting space.
While there is no one ‘silver bullet’ for replacing local authority funding, some promising new models emerged during the programme:
However, despite these encouraging results, not all projects tested worked as planned, an expected result for an early stage innovation programme. For example, Everton Park Community Hub found ‘Friends Groups’ are likely to require significant support, training and coordination to take a greater role in managing parks. Park Hack in Hoxton Square did not raise the income intended from an eye catching ‘Tree Office’ meeting space, but did mobilise local entrepreneurs and creative industries to contribute their ideas and energy to help the area’s green spaces.
With case studies and practical recommendations, Learning to Rethink Parks is a useful resource for a variety of stakeholders. Recommendations include:
Lydia Ragoonanan, Programme Manager of Rethinking Parks at Nesta said:
“Britain’s public parks need new sources of income and ways to reduce costs if they are to remain free and open. Rethinking Parks was designed to test ways to supplement existing funding. We now have a better understanding of the ideas with potential, as well as useful insights for the wider sector. Above all, the programme has shown us the importance of creating a space for parks to experiment, innovate and take chances.”
Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage at the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:
“Parks are facing significant funding challenges and Rethinking Parks has shown there is no one solution to putting them on a sustainable footing. What we do know is that any change should be managed in a sensitive, constructive way that involves local people and local businesses. The case studies have demonstrated the need to be realistic about what we can and should expect local people to be able to do. Ultimately, local taxation is still an essential cornerstone for funding parks into the future but a diversification of income is also necessary if parks are to remain resilient into the future.”
Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive at Big Lottery Fund said:
“Through this programme we wanted to encourage parks, communities and local authorities to think creatively about how parks can thrive in the future. We all know that when a park is well cared for and the local community feels a sense of ownership it can be a vital community asset, and for some people the only accessible and safe outdoor space they have.”
Many of the Rethinking Parks projects will continue into 2016, with funding from local authorities and/or new sources.
A copy of the final report can be found here.
Details of the project models can be found online here.
For media enquiries please contact:
Kasia Murphy, Press Officer at Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, on 020 7438 2610 / [email protected]