Parks conference covers best use of planning system

As austerity continues to bite, the subject of the West Midlands Parks Forum's second conference was how to make the most of the planning system.

The Land Trust: working to create community cohesion - image: The Land Trust
The Land Trust: working to create community cohesion - image: The Land Trust

As the Heritage Lottery Fund's second State of UK Public Parks report pointed out, local authorities are taking on responsibility for more green space than ever despite shrinking budgets.

One model for paying for future maintenance is a land trust, where those who buy property agree to pay a fee through their service charge for the future upkeep of high-quality green space around their homes or businesses. Iain Taylor from the Land Trust charity said local authorities are increasingly choosing this route. The trust now has responsibility for the land on which 30,000 properties sit, with a "huge pipeline" of projects.

Housebuilders are "commercial animals" and there is another way, he said. "It's partly about a clean exit for the developers." However, billing could be "interesting" with "some sensitivity" around pricing, although this depends on area and property value.

"These are bespoke funding solutions. They are all different and nothing is easy" he said, adding that the trust works to create community cohesion with events that bring people together.

Delegate Ian Maddox from Cardiff told Horticulture Week that people in his council are interested in this model as the city expands rapidly through housebuilding projects. "We've always adopted green space but we could be looking at a 20 per cent expansion. It's all green infrastructure," he said. The trust model could be beneficial but there are quite a few long-term issues, he added.

To have the best chance of getting good green infrastructure included in any scheme, the advice was to get involved as early as possible and with as many different parties as possible. Wychavon District Council town planner Andrew Ford advised parks managers to "engage with the planners in their ivory towers", respond to local plan consultations, have an input to masterplanning and contribute to local neighbourhood plans.

On sustainable urban drainage, it is important to work closely with landscape architects at the design stage, said BWB Consulting technical director Stuart Nelmes. Meanwhile, Former Telford & Wrekin Council planning policy team leader Michael Vout urged all green infrastructure professionals to get to grips with the National Planning Policy Framework.

Showing how things could be done at the London 2012 Olympic Park and its legacy Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Phil Askew of the London Legacy Development Corporation said planning was key to the park's success both during the games and as a legacy green space that has so far attracted 12 million visitors.

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