Plymouth wins share of multi-million pound parks fund

Central Park

Plymouth has won a place on a new multi-million pound initiative to secure the future of the city’s parks and green spaces.

Plymouth City Council fought off tough competition to ensure Plymouth was one of only eight places across the UK selected by the National Trust and The National Lottery Heritage Fund to take part in its ground-breaking Future Parks programme.

More than 80 other projects submitted by councils and communities across the UK to receive a share of more than £6m of funding and £5m worth of advice and support from some of the country’s leading experts in conservation, fundraising, volunteering and green space management.

In the first project of its kind in the UK, Future Parks is designed to help councils find sustainable ways to manage and fund parks and open spaces across entire towns and cities.

Councillor Sue Dann, Cabinet member for Street Scene and the Environment, said: “We love our parks as much as you do and we want to make sure that generation after generation get to experience their first taste of nature and adventure in the same way that their parents and their grandparents did.

“The support that we will get from this project will allow us to move to a new way of managing our parks and open spaces so that as budgets get tighter, we can continue to ensure that the green lung of our city continues to thrive and future proof them for the next generation.”

Last year, the Council submitted its plan to the Future Parks programme, focussing on working with National Trust and other national and local partners to develop the approach that the Council takes in the management of parks to increase and support the involvement of communities and social enterprises and to improve the environmental and social value of parks to the city.

Plymouth was selected because the Future Parks team recognised the strength of the city’s track record in working with social enterprises, the ambition to use new approaches to develop workable financial models to support parks management and the strength of the existing community involvement in the city’s parks and green spaces.

The Council will be delivering the project with the help of the University of Plymouth and social enterprise partners the Real Ideas Organisation, SERIO and Data Place.

Devonport Park

Councillor Dann added: “So what are we actually going to do? Well that’s our task now and that is why the Future Parks fund was set up. We’ve got some ideas but they need developing with residents, with volunteers, with partners and with staff during the first phase of the project, allowing us to present a new vision of how we want our parks to run in the future.”

This latest announcement comes as the UK’s parks face mounting financial pressure. A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies last month showed that councils were spending less on services, with leisure services such as parks and green spaces falling down the priority list.

This comes despite increased numbers of people using open green spaces and more areas being created as part of housing developments, according to the State of UK Parks report from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government’s own data.

Alongside the £5m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, in February the Government announced it was handing the Future Parks project £1.2m from an overall £13m dedicated to green spaces.

Hilary McGrady, the National Trust’s Director General, said: “Today is a landmark moment for the nation’s urban parks. This is not just about new ways to fund and support these much-loved community spaces, but completely re-thinking the role green spaces play in our lives and how we can ensure they thrive for generations to come.

“We need to give parks a reboot and start thinking about them as essential elements of our communities in the same way we think about housing or transport. Future Parks is the beginning of something really exciting. What these eight places achieve will help guide how other councils and communities can really make a difference to securing the future of their parks too.

“Ensuring everyone has the opportunity to enjoy green spaces is nothing new to the National Trust; nearly 125 years ago one of our founders, Octavia Hill, created the National Trust so that green spaces could be ‘kept for the enjoyment, refreshment and rest of those who have no country house’.”

Ros Kerslake, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s CEO, said: “Our urban parks and green spaces are essential to the health and well-being of the nation and yet in some areas they are facing a very insecure future. Future Parks isn’t simply patching-up a few problem parks. It is enabling local authorities and communities to take a longer-term, strategic approach to managing, funding and maintaining them, so future generations will be able to enjoy their many benefits in hundreds of years from now.

“Developing strategic approaches and championing innovation are key elements of our new five-year funding strategy. Future Parks allows us to maximise our resources and to work with key partners to accelerate progress and share learning.”

The eight selected places will now join Newcastle, a founding city of Future Parks, which has successfully developed a new parks and allotments trust to look after the city’s green spaces. Over the next two years they will work together to develop tools, approaches, skills and finance to create their new way of managing green space as well as sharing their experience with other councils.