Called simply Future Parks, the set of resources have been developed with the help of social sector financial advisers Social Finance and law firm Winckworth Sherwood, which advised the relatively new park trust Enable in Wandsworth, south London, as well as parks professionals up and down the country.
The toolkit was revealed on 20 October at a conference held by the three at Winckworth’s offices near London Bridge, London, attended by around 40 senior figures from the parks and connected sectors and chaired by crossbench peer Robert Kerslake, president of the Local Government Association and former head of the civil service and permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Lord Kerslake also sits on the House of Lords finance committee.
Lord Kerslake said there was "a lot to be said for the trust model".
"I think local government has managed the austerity agenda extraordinary well. I believe that what happened between 2010 and 2015 can’t simply be replicated beyond 2015. I think you are facing huge financial problems in local government generally, particularly in the so called discretionary services.
"The choice for local government is to carry on trimming or to look for imaginative solutions."
The conference featured short presentations by David Foster of Milton Keynes Parks Trust, Tony Durcan of Newcastle City Council and Paul McCue of Enable on their direct experience of parks trusts. They were joined by Royal Parks Foundation chief executive Sara Lom and chair of Liverpool Green and Open Spaces Review Simon O’Brien, who this month recommended a trust model for the city’s parks, in a panel discussion.
The toolkit is the result of learnings from the Sheffield City Council and National Trust (NT) Rethinking Parks project, one of 11 projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund and Nesta during the Rethinking Parks programme, and an expansion of focus announced by the NT in 2015 when it revealed its 10-year strategy, which included a commitment to help austerity-hit urban parks "to be more viable".
Director general Helen Ghosh said: "We were absolutely determined that we should go back to our roots, to see how we could meet that challenge, how we could provide key benefits to our nation, not just those who are lucky enough to visit our houses and our coasts.
"You might feel that the full gamut of the people’s park trust in your place is not appropriate but if you take one or two ideas away, then we will consider that a success."
The conference has also been holding in-depth workshops to dig into the issues involved in establishing and running a parks trust.
For more, see next week’s issue of Horticulture Week.