£1m grant programme for parks launched to encourage new funding ideas

A £1m funding pot is on offer to help develop ideas on making parks financially sustainable.

image: HW
image: HW

The Rethinking Parks programme is open to any individual or organisation with an innovative idea and grants of up to £100,000 per project plus a package of non-financial assistance will be awarded.

Funded by Nesta, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund, the programme has been set up to deal with a projected 60 per cent drop in public sector funding for non-statuatory services over the next decade.

Rethinking Parks director Vicki Sellick said: "Parks have an inherent value in providing space for rest, relaxation and to connect with nature. But with public subsidies diminishing, public parks could easily become overlooked.

"We need new ways of generating income for parks, new ways of getting communities involved and new ways of getting under-used green spaces used again. We need to rethink parks."

A Nesta report launched at the same time as the funding initiative called Rethinking Parks:Exploring New Business Models for Parks in the 21stCentury outlines areas where Nesta believes changes could be made to save money and maintain standards in parks including supporting changes in parks management and maintenance systems, encouraging new organisational partnerships, and exploring new uses and activities within parks.

Those interested in the grant are being encouraged to take part in workshops that will be held around the country and online in January, to help develop ideas and the successful applicants will be announced next summer.

The Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Funds have jointly invested more than £640 million across the UK to transform and regenerate more than 700 parks and public spaces but the grants cannot pay for long-term maintenance.
Welcoming the 'pump priming funding' from Nesta, a spokesperson from The Parks Alliance, formed by sector executives to provide a unified voice for parks and green spaces and to address the serious funding crisis, said: "Sustainable funding is crucial if our public parks are to survive and provide places of enjoyment for the community."
"The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery have made significant investment in the fabric of parks in recent years but on-going funding is needed to continue to deliver safe, quality, open spaces that make such a vital contribution to urban communities' health and well-being."


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