Innovation funding boost for UK parks

Approximately £1.5 million of funding will see a number of parks across the country become trailblazers for innovative new models of community engagement, management and usage.

Funded by the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Nesta, the grants 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. With each grant worth between £145,000-£200,000, the projects include forming parks foundations, nurturing friends groups and generating income through renewables.

Part of the Rethinking Parks initiative, 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. HLF’s State of UK Public Parks 2016 report found that over 37 million people regularly use parks in the UK, but 92 per cent of park managers have seen cuts to their revenue budgets and 95 per cent of park managers expect their budgets to be reduced over the next three years.

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, added: “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 eight projects are: Bristol & Bath (grant £193,617 ); Leeds Parks Fund (grant £171,289); Redcar and Cleveland Borough Foundation (grant £194,375); Powering Parks by 10:10 Climate Action (grant of £170,480); Reimagining Par Track (grant £200,000); Lordship Rec Community Empowerment and Co-Management Model (grant £145,278); Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (grant of £199,836); Performing Parks (grant £184,155).

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