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£11m initiative launched to save green spaces

A multi-million pound initiative to secure the future of the UK’s urban parks and green spaces is launched today.

In the first project of its kind in the UK, eight urban areas are joining forces in a pioneering programme designed to find sustainable ways to manage and fund parks and open spaces across entire towns and cities.

The Future Parks initiative is investing more than £6m of National Lottery and government funding. The National Trust has also pledged £5m worth of advice and support from some of the country’s leading experts in conservation, fundraising, volunteering and green space management.

The eight places, covering a population of five million people, were chosen in a UK-wide national competition. They were selected for their ambitious and creative plans to put green spaces right at the heart of local communities. They are:

  • Birmingham;
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole;
  • Bristol;
  • Cambridgeshire (county-wide, covering seven council areas);
  • Edinburgh; ­
  • Islington and Camden;
  • Nottingham; and
  • Plymouth

The green space across the eight Future Parks places totals more than 20,000ha – an area equivalent to about 35,000 football pitches – ranging from parks, woodlands and cemeteries to allotments, playing fields and nature reserves.

The eight places were among 81 councils and communities that applied to be part of the ground-breaking programme. Collectively they asked for more than £60m for new plans to secure the future of their parks and open spaces.

All winning bids demonstrated four key themes: making green spaces central to everyday community life; giving the public a bigger role in how they are managed; ensuring they contribute more to the public’s mental and physical health; and transforming the way they are funded to secure their futures.

For instance, in Islington and Camden the councils will focus on using parks and green spaces to improve health and wellbeing by developing closer links to the NHS, health providers, doctors and health charities.

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.

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.

This is the first time in the UK that a programme of this scale and ambition has been attempted for urban green spaces across entire towns and cities. The National Trust and The National Lottery Heritage Fund set up the joint venture because of their shared passion to ensure quality green, open space is easily and freely accessible for everyone, for generations to come.

Hilary McGrady, the National Trust’s director general, says: “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.”

Over the next two years, the eight places 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.

Photo by Mike Bird from Pexels

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