Local parks across the country are to be trailblazers for innovative new models of community engagement, management and usage following the announcement today of nearly £1.5 million of funding and support by Nesta, the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The grants - ranging from £145,000- £200,000 - will assist eight projects, supporting new ways of running parks with communities and councils working together to make the most of these vital community assets, including; forming parks foundations, nurturing friends groups and generating income through renewables.
The eight projects are:
The award is part of the Rethinking Parks initiative which aims to help those with creative and innovative ideas for running public spaces and plans to help them thrive. The projects that have been awarded funding have all demonstrated excellent potential for changing the way that public space is used and managed, putting communities at the heart of ideas to make parks more sustainable and vibrant.
Alice Casey, Head of New Operating Models at Nesta, said: “Our aim is to help parks innovate to ensure they can sustain and develop as free, open and truly valued community spaces for the future. Parks are wonderful, free public resources, that communities treasure; particularly in urban environments. They support activity, health and wellbeing, as well as play, socialising and connection to nature. Rethinking Parks will demonstrate ways to ensure that our parks will continue to be protected and loved by communities everywhere for generations to come.”
Gemma Bull, Portfolio Development Director at the Big Lottery Fund said: “Thanks to National Lottery players these eight valued community spaces can build on pioneering ideas that have been proven to help parks to thrive in other areas. We are delighted that this funding will bring together people and organisations to secure the future of these parks and keep them at the heart of their communities.”
Drew Bennellick, HLF’s Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, said: “With increasing concerns around the health of the nation, our local parks have never been so important and they must be protected. Rethinking Parks is empowering local authorities, businesses and communities to work together to create and test innovative ways of managing and sustaining parks in the future, ensuring the £900 million of National Lottery money invested in them doesn’t go to waste.”
The need to innovate new models for parks in the 21st Century
According to HLF’s State of UK Public Parks 2016 report, over 37 million people—more than
57 per cent of the UK population—regularly use parks in the UK. They are a vital community
asset with a wealth of social and economic benefits. But they are at serious risk of decline and loss. Since 2014, 92% of park managers have seen cuts to their revenue budgets and 95% of park managers expect their budgets to be reduced over the next three years.
To lose these community assets would have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of the nation. Fields in Trust’s 2015 survey revealed that two thirds (69%) state that the loss of parks would be detrimental to children’s development. Half of respondents believed that they would be less active if their local green space was built on.
Across the population, parks and green spaces are estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year based solely on a reduction in GP visits and excluding any additional savings from prescribing or referrals.
Information about the innovation projects we’re backing:
Bristol & Bath Parks Foundation by Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council (grant £193,617)
Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council are joining forces to develop a Parks Foundation to support parks across the two cities. This collaborative approach will test how public giving, volunteering and social enterprise can be encouraged to benefit parks for public use and enjoyment. The work will build on and learn from Bournemouth Parks Foundation - the pioneering Foundation that was supported by Rethinking Parks in 2014. The Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation will also share lessons learnt with South Gloucestershire and North Somerset Council’s in the final 6 months of the project.
Leeds Parks Fund: Charitable Giving to Parks by Leeds City Council (grant £171,289)
Leeds City Council will work in partnership with Leeds Community Foundation, Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum and University of Leeds to research, develop and promote charitable initiative ‘Leeds Parks Fund’. The Fund will raise an income to enhance parks and green spaces in the city and it will provide an opportunity for communities, businesses and other partners to be more involved in how Leeds parks are developed. The partners in the scheme will work with Rethinking Parks to explore the longer term sustainability of the model; undertaking research, developing and implementing fundraising and marketing plans, and engaging local communities and businesses to help realise and understand the potential of the Parks Foundation model in a major northern city. The team will also aim to understand whether the model of working with a Community Foundation partner could be applied successfully to other locations.
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Foundation by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (grant £194,375)
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is committed to putting communities at the heart of everything they do. Their programme aims to establish a bold and ambitious Parks Foundation, working with local people and businesses to deliver vibrant parks and country parks at the centre of communities. The Foundation will buildactivity into the heart of each park, using the spaces to host a more diverse range of activity and supporting people to become more physically active as a critical element of a “community activity model” within work already underway with their Sport England Local Delivery Pilot. They aim to draw skills and views from a broad range of individuals and groups across sectors and ages to strengthen their parks for the future; building them with local communities.
Powering Parks by 10:10 Climate Action (grant of £170,480)
10:10 Climate Action will work with Hackney Council and Scene Consulting in North East London to produce low carbon heat through installing ground source heat pumps within parks. The team will engage and involve the local community and create governance structures to manage income generated for local benefit. The project plans to save money through generating clean energy to heat buildings close to the parks, displacing previous fossil fuel use. A primary focus for the project will be the Hackney Downs Lido, where savings of up to 250 tonnes of C02 emissions per year, and up to £520,000 in total savings over the longer term could be achieved. The project will aim to better understand this approach, combining technology installation, community engagement and financial governance, to assess whether it can benefit more parks around the UK. Finally, resources will be produced to aid other parks in replicating the project.
Reimagining Par Track: Run Ride Relax Repeat by Par Track (grant £200,000)
Par Track is a unique mix of sporting facilities, green space and recreation area with a local GP Health Centre adjacent to the park. It is classified as one of the most deprived wards in the UK. The team will look at how they can offer new services to reduce health inequalities and attract a number of different groups to use the park who would otherwise be under-represented and under-supported to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Par Track is a young organisation, based in Cornwall and created and led by the local community. The team have ambitions to develop a school health programme and to replicate the 'Social Prescribing' model supported by Eden project who have carried out a successful pilot of this approach. Social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients to non-clinical services. For example, a person experiencing low mood or depression could be referred to a gardening workshop or other social activities that are known to have a positive effect on wellbeing and mental health. The team will also raise a community share offer to increase engagement and local buy-in to the park, as a route to broadening engagement and increasing financial sustainability.
Lordship Rec Community Empowerment and Co-Management Model by the Friends of Lordship Rec (grant £145,278)
The Friends of Lordship Rec will test, develop and analyse the potential of their community empowerment and co-management model set up between Haringey Council and the Lordship Rec User Forum which includes twenty self governing Lordship Rec User Groups. This model, based on strengthening community self-organisation and involvement and an active collaboration with the Council relies on a balanced and meaningful partnership between Council and Friends groups, enables the local community to take meaningful decisions on the management of their park and its various facilities. It relies on a balanced and meaningful partnership between Council and Friends groups.
The team will work closely with the Council and Nesta to systematically set out their model and promote it to others parks and organisations that would be interested in developing in a similar direction A package of learning and support will be created with help from Nesta in order to spread the approach to other areas.
Walsall Connecting Green spaces by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (grant of £199,836.22)
Walsall Connecting Green spaces will make a clear offer to engage local businesses in supporting parks as part of their commitment to the local community. Walsall Council has learnt from the previous Rethinking Parks programme in Darlington to meet the needs expressed by local businesses to get a clear offer of activities and events to engage with green spaces. Walsall will offer five clearly defined sponsorship package ranging from promotional and marketing opportunities to structured corporate volunteering activities in different green spaces. The aim will be to bring together community and business in a more systematic way to make the most of their common interest in supporting and sustaining their shared local environment and green spaces. Rethinking Parks will support Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council to explore how this way of working could transfer to other parks and green spaces services.
Performing Parks - Transforming Local Open Spaces by the Friends of Hardie Park (grant £184,155)
Performing Parks is an approach to collaboration between parks services and the community that has been created, developed and enhanced by the Friends of Hardie Park in Essex. The community ownership model revived a disused park and made it into a thriving public space with a Community cafe and activities for all to enjoy. It also involves schools and local businesses in supporting the project. Performing Parks will build on and codify this experience and will spread the model to 5 other parks in the local area. The team will take this opportunity to see how their community model can spread appropriately as different groups of volunteers take varied approaches to the responsibility of the management of their parks. A package of learning and support will be created with help from Nesta in order to spread the approach to other areas.