Partnerships: the face of the future

In recent years, forward-thinking parks leaders have begun to find ways to harness partnerships with other service providers - whether within or outside their own local authority - helping to raise cash for the statutory-funding-free zone of green-space services. 

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council's parks department, led by Steve Smith, is a case in point, building up a partnership with the council's social services department for a project where facilities in the borough's parks are used to provide work experience and social facilities to those with special educational needs.

As well as the obvious benefits to members of Oldham's community, the partnership has meant additional funds going into the green-space infrastructure - in 2006 more than £500,000 was brought in - from social services, which could bring to the table, as Smith put it at the time, "sustainable budgets that we can only dream of".

Now the National Trust is making the link, calling for investment from the NHS and Primary Care Trusts, alongside district councils, in the "natural health services" that green space can provide (see news pages). The trust, after the Government the second-largest owner of green space in the country, argues that access to green space and the natural environment plays a significant role in sustaining people's physical and mental health - a message that echoes work from other sectors within horticulture, not least the HTA's Plant For Life campaign.

Citing an NHS study, which found a 10 per cent increase in adult physical activity would benefit the UK by £500m a year and save 6,000 lives, it says more can be done to maximise the health benefits of green space by introducing a framework in which local health funding is directed towards prescribing greater activity, encouraging green exercise, and through partnership working.

As green space comes under ever more pressure - and the matching of Government funding priorities to parks and green space services gets ever tougher (Analysis, HW, 20 March) - there is little doubt that such partnerships can and will be required to play a big role in the future of green-space service provision.

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