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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Rethinking Parks: New business models for parks

This report highlights the need for new business models to run parks, given the cuts in government funding, and discusses 20 international examples of how parks innovators are doing just that.

Key findings:

  • Many of the UK's public parks face an uncertain future with a reduction of up to 60 per cent in public subsidy looming, putting their management and maintenance at risk.
  • While public subsidy will remain a big part of the picture, new approaches to managing parks are needed.
  • There are already examples of successful parks business models in the UK and internationally.
  • These include new models of management, funding and organisation, often involving community, social and private enterprises.
  • But more must be done. The most promising areas worthy of further exploration for ensuring public parks continue to thrive are: changes in park management and maintenance, new organisational structures, more diverse funding sources, and identifying new uses for parks.

Public parks are an essential part of the social life and fabric of communities across the UK. They are heavily used, much loved and add considerably to the liveability and amenity of our towns and cities.

With the long term viability of public parks under threat because of forecast reductions in public subsidies, new business models for public parks need to be found.

Within the UK examples already exist of new ways to think about how to sustain our public parks. These include long-term management by ‘Friends of’ groups and enabling charities to provide day to day management in lieu of rent for use of facilities.

There will be challenges in developing and adapting new business models for parks. This includes ensuring public parks are integral to, and reflective of the surrounding cultural, socio-economic and physical context. In some contexts private management models for public parks may offer a sustainable financial model, while in other areas cooperative management with local communities may be a more viable option.

Opportunities exist too for parks to play a long term role in tackling climate change, in helping patients manage long-term conditions, in fighting the obesity epidemic and in providing opportunities for children to learn about food growth.


Peter Neal