Business approach urged to secure extra parks funding

Green-space leaders need to work more closely with accountants, lawyers and planners to reap the full financial potential of their parks, an open-space chief has advised.

Carlisle City Council neighbourhoods and green-spaces manager Phil Gray explained that public-sector cuts had forced the parks department to be more proactive and business minded. He said he believed in the "user-pays principle".

But what "bugged" him about the general view of parks was that nobody saw them as valuable assets. Local authority finance chiefs valued heritage assets such as statues and bandstands, yet on the asset register, parks were valued at £1 each.

"Some of our parks are prime real estate," he told a Can Money Grow on Trees? conference run by the Association for Public Service Excellence last week. "They are destinations for a lot of people and we can sell them as that."

Gray said: "Some people are uncomfortable thinking about the dirty world of commercial activity." But planners, for example, had helped him to free up £60,000 of section 106 money for revenue spending on formal parks. The Rural Payments Agency, meanwhile, awarded Carlisle £36,000 of revenue cash to look after informal areas of public open space.

"To some people that's chicken feed, but for us it's a significant amount. Don't be afraid to speak the language of business."

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