Is there a Parks Alliance?

  Back in October 2012 I represented cCLOA at The UK’s first Public Parks Summit. The country was still inspired by the Olympics where our green spaces had been the arenas for a wealth of inspirational sporting moments. The sector had at last woken up to the need to pull together to prevent parks being an early casualty of the austerity measures.

So what’s happened since……..

The summit led to a series of round table debates and the formation of a transitional Parks Alliance to try to create a united voice for parks. On the 8th May 2014 I represented cCLOA at a meeting hosted by the transitional board of the Parks Alliance at the highly impressive Birmingham Central Library, which I believe is the biggest library in Europe.  

Sue Ireland – from the City of London Corporation outlined the work that the transitional board would like the Alliance to undertake:

  • Promoting and protecting public parks
  • Evidencing the value of parks
  • Developing the parks workforce
  • Provide leadership
  • Sharing ideas
  • Parks champions – seek to establish a single Councillor in each local authority area as a Parks Champion.

How will the Alliance be set up?

The plan is to establish a company limited by guarantee that could then look to obtain charitable status. The setup of the company and establishment of a permanent board is likely to take up to two years. While this seems very slow, I do agree with the transitional board members that the Alliance needs solid foundations if it is to make a difference and not just become another fragmented voice in the parks sector. The Alliance has commissioned a communications agency who has developed a brand and a website is due to be launched imminently.

Do we need a Minister for Parks?

The main theme for the day was whether the Alliance should lobby for a Minister for Parks; the Head of Greenspace Scotland (Julie Proctor) challenged this saying that rather than lobbying for such changes, it’s better to effectively promote the sector against the governments ambitions and sell these benefits to the relevant Ministers. Greenspace Scotland seem to have used this model successfully.

While the Alliance gets to grips with its priorities and tries to raise enough funding to establish itself, there are some quick wins that help to promote our green spaces. Love Parks Week runs almost concurrently with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games – it offers a great opportunity to combine parks with cultural and sporting events and to try to reignite some of the magic we witnessed in 2012. I asked Keep Britain Tidy who manage Love Parks week for some promotional blurb to share with cCLOA members –  

Love Parks Week (Friday 25 July 2014 – Sunday 3 August 2014)

Love Parks Week is a platform for hundreds of park lovers to join forces in the UK’s largest celebration of green spaces. Over the last six years the campaign has made huge steps forward, building up to 1,100 events and 1.4 million participants last year. This year Love Parks Week will be ramping up its fight for parks and encouraging the creation of a year round movement with the launch of a new brand – ‘Love Parks’, after all a park is for life not just for summer. To help do this we need as many people as possible to hold and attend events. For more information and to upload details of your event please visit www.loveparksweek.org.uk

Summary

  • cCLOA members need to be proactive in their management of parks and continue to show how they deliver the council’s wider objectives
  • The Parks Alliance is looking like being an umbrella organisation
  • While the core messages were worked on at the session, more work is needed to agree a prioritised plan
  • A small number of members are keen to use the Alliance to lobby government in a way that doesn’t fit with cCLOA principles on issues that seem unrealistic e.g. ring fencing parks budgets
  • As such I think that we should support the principle of a Parks Alliance, but wait until the organisations objectives are clear before we decide if we want to be part of the Alliance.

All views appreciated. Cheers

Ian Brooke, Head of Service, Leisure, Parks & Communities, Oxford City Council & cCLOA Executive Member  ibrooke@oxford.gov.uk  07500 950 770