Government sets authorities' award target

Liveability minister Phil Hope has made winning a Green Flag a target for local authorities.

Organisers the Civic Trust expect up to 30 more local authorities to enter parks next year. And the trust is looking for 100 more judges to add to the 335 Green Flag judges to cope with the increased number of inspections. Speaking at the Green Flag awards ceremony in Preston, Hope said the awards would be used as a measure of success for the Government’s new liveability PSA target. He explained the Government’s commitment to Green Flags. “Our aim is to ensure everyone has access to good quality parks and green spaces. Our vision is that every community aspires to the (green Flag) standard. In the summer the ODPM agreed a new target to lead to the delivery of cleaner, safer, greener public spaces. For that reason we have incorporated the Green Flag Awards scheme as one of the measures of success: This may not seem an earth-shattering announcement but this is a reflection of the value and importance we place in Green Flags.” Hope added the Government will publish full details “shortly”. He said the scheme should continue “in its current form”. The Government will form a Green Flag Board of CABE Space, Civic Trust, scheme judges and other stakeholders to guide development of operational changes and delivery. He congratulated the 253 award winners from 114 local authorities. These include 83 new winners such as Fox Covert Cemetery in Warrington and Tatton Park in Cheshire. Hope said many authorities were using the award criteria as a management tool, which led to an eight per cent increase in public satisfaction in green spaces in the last three years. Civic Trust Green Flag award manager Paul Todd said: “I think it is so positive of the Government now really committed to supporting green spaces. I think making it a target for local authorities to achieve Green Flags is going to grow the scheme and get a commitment from local authorities not already involved in the scheme. He added that Civic Trust research suggests a 25-30 per cent increase in entrants next year. There are 114 English and four Welsh local authorities in the scheme. Todd said the trust’s focus was to streamline the system to help all local authorities to apply. Next year the trust will trial online applications with four or five local authorities, to be announced in January. By 2006 online applications will be an option for all at greenflagaward.org.uk. Authorities will only need to submit a management plan next year rather than a management plan and other plans, such as an environmental plan. A training programme to standardise judging is underway. CABE Space head of standards and best practice Deborah Fox said research showed local authorities “had the perception” that parks were not judged to the same criteria and that judges were too inexperienced for the job. Todd said authorities such as Leeds, which has 30 judges on the staff, had shown authorities could use judging for staff personal development and to assess their own parks. Todd added that previous appeals through HW had been successful.

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