Positive thinking by green-space teams

Three cheers for parks professionals such as the team at the London Borough of Richmond, which is exploring "new ways of thinking" to help it deal with the squeeze on spending that is coming to so many public-sector organisations next year. In Richmond's case this means, in part, seeking to take ideas from the business world.

Those "business" ideas include bringing in someone to secure sponsorship for vital green-space projects who would be remunerated largely according to performance rather than according to the standard fixed salary package.

Meanwhile, like many other authorities, Richmond, which is facing a squeeze on spending over the next three years, is planning to run more events in its green spaces - a move that currently raises £60,000 a year. Its parks team has formed partnerships with "fit equipment" manufacturers to lend kit for six months with the promise to residents that the council will fund half the cost of purchasing the kit if the community can raise the rest.

The ideas might not all be radical, or even all that new, but what matters is that they represent a strong dose of positive thinking on behalf of the Richmond team to the challenges ahead.

It was a similarly positive approach that earned Nottingham City Council's parks team its award for Open Space Management Team of the Year at this month's Horticulture Week Landscape & Amenity Awards. In Nottingham's case, this was evidenced by its success as a green space advocate, helping it to secure £100,000 from local businesses for a range of new projects, £200,000 worth of assistance from volunteers and £300,000 in extra authority cash for allotments.

We all have a pretty good idea now of the challenges that will be facing the green-space sector as we hit 2010. Adding to those challenges, as our report on p21 notes, is the looming 15th anniversary of the first wave of Heritage Lottery Fund-supported park projects when strictures on local authorities for their upkeep will no longer apply. The kind of positive thinking and leadership emerging from authorities such as Richmond, Nottingham and many more is what is needed to see the sector through.


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