Public and private sector bodies ready to help with parks but finances to be resolved

Representatives of private and voluntary sector organisations have said they are willing to help out with cash-strapped public parks - but running them would need financial matters resolved.

Property developer St Modwen regional director Mike Herbert said Stoke's Festival Park shows how a public resource can be run by the private sector. "The park enhances the setting of all the businesses now on site, (who) all pay a service charge that covers the costs so there's no cost to the public purse," he said. St Modwen manages the 65ha park, a former Garden Festival site, on a 150-year ground lease from the city council.

"There is an argument, in the right circumstances, to allow some commercial activities within part of a public park to produce the capital and revenue to secure the future running of the rest of the park," he said.

"Simply expecting the private sector to donate money is not going to happen and there will always be a risk of the sponsor withdrawing funding later."

Knoll Gardens owner Neil Lucas said he would give "serious consideration" to any requests for help from public parks. "We can certainly find enough to keep us occupied, but we should help wherever possible or practical," he told HW.

Paignton Zoo plants and gardens curator Kevin Frediani said he would be open "in principle" to taking over public green space management, but that "the financial details would need to be resolved".

See p20.

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