Common interest best bet for parks

We report on another major city this week that hopes, at least in part, to secure a future for its crisis-hit parks by working with key local institutions that share common goals and interests (see p9-11).

With Liverpool forecast to have insufficient money to fund even its statutory services by 2018, its parks service is facing the potential loss of all its financial support - hence the decision in 2014 to establish a review board to look for a way forward, led by local actor and environmentalist Simon O'Brien.

After a year of field research across the country, O'Brien is absolutely clear on one thing - only groups with a vested interest in parks such as health and water bodies are worth approaching.

Early suggestions that Liverpool could find philanthropists and big businesses willing to pay for parks get short shrift. "CSV (corporate social venturing) doesn't exist in this country", O'Brien tells Horticulture Week.

"I hate to tell everyone but I have not yet seen, in all my travels, one single example where a big hitter has stood up to the plate and said 'we'll look after that park'. I don't think that culture exists here."

Better, as other authorities are also finding, to work with those with a vested interest in parks, such as local health and water authorities.

While the focus for O'Brien is on identifying those that can contribute to a parks endowment fund, he is also identifying those that can help in other ways. For example, the University of Liverpool is considering whether it could maintain two parks used by its students in return for access for educational use.

Development levies, meanwhile, could be used to build a green infrastructure corridor.


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