Founding chair and trustees of Newcastle Parks Trust appointed

Newcastle City Council has recruited the first chair and board of trustees of its pioneering parks trust.

Jim Beirne MBE is the founding chair of the Newcastle Parks Trust. Image: supplied
Jim Beirne MBE is the founding chair of the Newcastle Parks Trust. Image: supplied

Chief executive of Newcastle theatre and theatre company, Live Theatre, Jim Beirne MBE is the founding chair of the Newcastle Parks Trust. He will be supported by a series of senior and experienced trustee appointments to govern the new, independent charity from next year.

The trust will be the first purpose-built charity set up to take on an existing portfolio of parks and green spaces across an entire city, after the city council realised it could not pay for parks in the future, following a 90% cut to the parks budget since 2010.

Newcastle gave the go-ahead for the trust in November 2017, following a period of development supported by the National Trust and HLF investment. It is due to take over the running of 51ha of the city's parks, green spaces and allotments next year, including all 12 principal parks. Its charitable focus will be to ensure Newcastle’s parks and green spaces deliver for the city and its people. The council has agreed £9.5m in revenue contribution over its first decade to give it time to bed in.

Beirne was appointed following a thorough recruitment process, supported by the National Trust and brings experience, profile, a strong charitable background, and a history of contribution to the civic and cultural life of the city.

He has led Live Theatre since 2000, during which time it has benefited from a £19 million capital development, creating a social enterprise model that includes a cultural hub of award winning buildings and restaurants.

Councillor Kim McGuinness Newcastle's cabinet member for culture, sport and public health is the trust's vice-chair. The remaining board appointments are an 11-strong panel of trustees with a wealth of backgrounds and expertise.

Beirne said: "I’m delighted to be taking on the role of chair of this independent charity. It’s an exciting new chapter in the city’s history as the parks play a vital role in the social and economic well-being of our communities. I look forward to working with the trustees, the team, the city and many other stakeholders to take forward this innovative new initiative."

The other board members are:

  • Brian Aitken - former editor of Newcastle newspaper The Journal who now runs PR firm Brian Aitken Associates with clients including Newcastle United and Newcastle College.
  • Val Keen, a civil servant in the Homelessness Division at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who has led on the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
  • Rob Cameron - owner and director of 'container community' By The River Brew Co, pubs and micro breweries including Wylam Brewery located in The Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park.
  • Paul Collings – runs a selection of small businesses that supply children’s play, sports and leisure equipment across the country.
  • Tricia Cresswell - former director of public health for Newcastle and North Tyneside now retired after 36 years of working for the NHS and Public Health England.
  • Kate Culverhouse - executive director of Groundwork.
  • Nigel Emmerson - solicitor and partner in Newcastle headquartered- Womble Bond Dickinson UK LLP law firm who also sits on the board of Byker Community Trust. Real estate law specialist.
  • Ella Ritchie OBE – former deputy vice chancellor at Newcastle University and former politics lecturer now consultant on projects such as the Fairness Commission and Learning Challenge.
  • Gina Tiller - chair of North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust has valuable experience of working on multi-agency boards.
  • Marion Williams – councillor for the Callerton & Throckley ward, former director of the Civic Turst and trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Museums, Libraries and Archives Council 

Residents and stakeholders have recently given their input into trust plans through a city-wide programme of engagement, and the council is looking for a chief executive for the trust.

McGuinness said: "Jim Beirne joins a strong, passionate and varied board of trustees that will drive the vision for the parks trust forward and help to create and maintain stunning green spaces across Newcastle.

"Our parks are valuable assets and loved by our residents, they are a big part of what makes Newcastle a great place to live, work and visit and this group, expertly led by Jim, will help to deliver this ambition."

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