Opening up contractor lessons

Contractors have long been a crucial part of the fabric of parks and green spaces in the UK, with the best among them bringing innovation, shared experience and economies of scale to help resolve the numerous challenges facing cash-strapped local authority-run teams.

What is surprising, given just how critical contracting is to so many parks departments, is that so little research has been done into the extent and nature of contracting, including the specifics of the contracting relationship, how contracts are monitored, the experience of clients and more.

Research being carried out by the University of Sheffield's Department of Landscape from next week into the management and maintenance of parks will, we hope, do much to open this subject up to the benefit not just of the European partners spearheading the project who are hoping to learn from the UK experience but also parks teams and their contractors across the UK.

A survey being launched next week as part of the research project and sent out to local authorities drills down into the detail of contracts including specifications, incentives, sanctions and more as well as looking at the general obstacles to contracting.

There is still so much to learn. Sue Morgan of Around the Block, which managed the restoration of London's Alexandra Road Park, tells us that at the start of the project one of the big weaknesses was separate housing estate and parks management contracts - now rectified with a single integrated contract covering both park and estate.

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