Government talks debate Green Flag Awards future

Department for Communities & Local Government to look for bidders to take over the scheme under licence from August.

An external group is sought to run the green space initiative - image: HW
An external group is sought to run the green space initiative - image: HW

The Government is reviewing the operation of the Green Flag Awards scheme and is to offer a licence for its running from next August.

The Department for Communities & Local Government, which was due to host a meeting this week (7 December) on the future of the scheme, said: "Lovers of green spaces will get the chance to have a say on the future of the prestigious event.

"Ministers support Green Flag and wish to see it sustained when the arrangement to run the scheme ends on 31 August next year," said the department. "Our intention is to advertise next year for an external group to run the scheme and invite bids."

Under secretary of state Andrew Stunell said the meeting was called to look at the proposed licence framework, due to be published in February. The awards, which cost £1m to run, had done wonders in raising standards and awareness of parks, he added.

"They have a vital future role. I hope all those with an interest in the scheme will use this opportunity to help shape the future of the awards so we can all continue to celebrate what's best about our parks and green spaces."

It is understood that the Government is planning a Green Flag strategic group to look at its future role and what incentives would be needed for a third party to run the initiative.

Peter Wilkinson, director at consultancy Next Field, said: "Without CABE Space as our champion inside Government, Green Flag is one of the few things we now have to unify the green space sector. I would like to see the award owned by our sector."

He added: "We should look at more creative options. Government could set up a community interest not-for-profit company owned by its members. I have no problem with a commercial group being part of a wider sector partnership."

But parks consultant Stewart Harding expressed doubt about the move. "All the judges are volunteers and I doubt that they would want to continue for free for a private company or an organisation that was primarily commercial.

"I can't imagine what would attract others to do it unless the Government grant that supports the scheme was to continue. It sounds like parks have been caught up in a Government tidal wave of privatisation."

Setting standards

Green Flag is the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces. A record number of awards were made last year and 1,200 sites currently fly the flag. Organisers, a consortium of Keep Britain Tidy, GreenSpace and BTCV, want half of all green spaces in England and Wales - 15,000 sites - to unfurl flags by 2020. The Netherlands and Germany are piloting schemes.

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