Town councils win as Parks for People scheme broadens criteria

Lottery funding to support public parks is to get a boost.

Lottery funding to support public parks is to get a £90m boost from the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), while the priorities for parks funding are set to change. The Parks for People (PfP) scheme, launched on 17 January, is the first to be funded jointly by two separate lottery agencies. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will manage the scheme and will contribute £70m over its three-year course. A change in the rules means appliants need not be parks with a high heritage value. HLF policy adviser Lorna McRobie said: “We hope that by broadening the criteria we will attract more small authorities such as town councils. These needn’t be parks with high national heritage value, but their plans will have to show community involvement and community benefit.” PfP will cover projects costing between £250,000 and £5m, and will cover up to 75 per cent of funding. Its predecessor scheme, the Public Parks Initiative (PPI), allowed funding up to 90 per cent for projects costing under £1m and 75 per cent for larger projects, which had no cost ceiling. The first deadline for applications is 31 March 2006, with awards being made in September. HLF parks funding has halved in a decade to £30m a year. Funding under PfP will include training costs for staff and volunteers. A new package of HLF training bursaries will include £721,000 to boost skills in historic and botanic gardens via 17 organisations. L Britain’s parks face a mixed financial future, according to the latest Horticulture Week reader survey. Only 15 per cent of parks people who were asked reported that their 2006 budget was likely to rise compared with 2005; 35 per cent said the budget would be cut; and half think it would not change in budget rounds announced this month. Non-statutory services such as parks and gardens are among the first to suffer as councils seek to balance their books. At Southend-on-Sea, Essex, there will be an £11m funding gap. Assistant director of leisure, culture and amenity services Nick Harris said the council is seeing what savings can be made. “We have five Green Flag parks and there will undoubtedly be things we want to do that we will not be able to. It is very disappointing.” Bromley head of parks and recreation Patrick Phillips has been told there will be “no change” to his budget. He said: “Some things have still not been sorted out, but it is about the same as last year.”

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