Use stats to bolster fight for green spaces, Preston urges

Improved advocacy skills and better use of statistics could help park managers to prove the value of their green spaces, Leeds City Council chief recreation officer Denise Preston believes.

Speaking at last week’s GreenSpace “Pushing Parks Forward” conference in Leeds, Preston said that “just saying parks are good is not going to get the money we all need”. Parks were not top of the agenda in the same way other cultural services were, she said. “One reason is that we’re not advocating properly or we haven’t been. We’re not able to say what users want and expect, and we can’t prove visitor numbers or the benefits on various levels.” Parks had a “massive contribution to make” towards government health and well-being targets but to get funding, evidence was required to show what was needed and then what the improvements had achieved. She outlined how extensive user surveys carried out in Leeds have created a data benchmark. The statistics show where work is needed and then improvements can be compared and benefits shown. Leeds has also developed its own quality protocol standard which uses Green Flag assessment criteria. Using the Leeds Quality Park Protocol enables staff to self-assess parks and see where improvements are required. Preston said to market parks and their benefits, parks managers must understand what was provided and the standards of provision, as well as what users want and how to link that to quality standards.

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