Exploring the future of our public parks
BIG’s UK Chair, Peter Ainsworth, was delighted to join a host of international experts and key decision makers at the Public Parks Summit yesterday, where the future of our public parks was under the spotlight…
I was delighted to announce that The Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund will be renewing their commitment to parks by launching the new Parks for People programme, which will see £100million made available for the regeneration of our public parks over the next 3 years.
BIG has been involved in the programme in England since 2006, and over the last 16 years the lottery has invested over £640 million in public parks across the UK. This funding has led to a renaissance in the fortune of the great British park and transformed many long neglected spaces.
However, times are tough and the current economic climate is challenging and as a result of this public parks are at real risk from ever reducing local authority revenue budgets. The UK Public Parks Summit was therefore organised to help take a broader look at the serious issues facing parks and consider what the future holds for them. During the day we listened to some inspiring and innovative ideas from home and abroad which illustrated how we can go about ensuring that parks continue to thrive and appeal to the general public.
Delegates heard from Professor Ken Worpole who began the Summit by reflecting on the seminal Park Life Report, which kick started the revival of urban parks in the 1990s. There were international perspectives from Peter Harnik from the Center for City Park Excellence in the US and Jon Pape from the City of Copenhagen. The Rt Hon Don Foster, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Communities and Local Government also addressed the Summit. The summit heard from Mark Camley, Director of Olympic Park Operations, who spoke about the transformation of the Olympic site into an exciting new community park.
Throughout the day the Summit explored strengthening the role of parks’ community groups and involving local people as well as hearing about innovative new models to help raise income. This included an interactive income generation toolkit created by the Land Trust and funded by HLF and BIG that will launch early next year to provide community groups, park managers, land owners and local authorities with advice about sustainable commercial income for parks.
I hope that yesterday’s summit has highlighted the wider values of parks and that the lessons we have already learned are shared in order to build greater resilience for the very challenging times ahead. The summit offered the chance to take stock, look back at what has been achieved across our communities and also look beyond the severe financial constraints to find cost effective and innovative ways of doing things.
We know that parks are a profoundly important part of everyday life in urban areas. They make most difference to their communities when services are in good condition, where people feel safe and where there are things for people to enjoy for free. HLF and BIG are keen that the summit is seen as just a start of a debate about what we can all do to ensure that the quality and character of our parks and public spaces continue to be vital to the quality of life.