Resources key for parks action

The Parks Alliance's first round table of the year updates parks sector on progress made so far.

The Parks Alliance (TPA) now has a logo, a website close to launch, a governance plan and a communications strategy but still needs funds and feedback to press ahead.

That was the message heard by TPA members at its first round table this year at Birmingham City Council's new £189m library on 8 May.

Interim board member and City of London Corporation director of open spaces Sue Ireland said: "Unless we find resources this isn't going anywhere. We're not looking for hundreds and thousands of pounds - tens of thousands would be enough."

More than £2,000 plus "significant non-cash support" was pledged at the event in Birmingham. The alliance can apply for a Heritage Lottery Fund start-up fund for more.

TPA was formed at the last round table event in May 2013, hosted by Horticulture Week and inspired by HW's Make Parks a Priority campaign. A year later, the message is that much progress has been made, thanks to pro bono work and donations, but the alliance was keen to ensure its organisational structure is sound.

Alliance vice chair Sid Sullivan updated members on TPA's objective to engage with a minister responsible for parks, saying the prime minister's office pointed to Defra but Defra sent TPA to the Department for Communities & Local Government. TPA has a meeting there on 21 May.

Board member Andrew Gill, president elect of the Institute of Horticulture, said the favoured governance model is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee that would offer independence and flexibility, but this was challenged by delegates.

The TPA could yet choose to become a charity. Gill insisted that it is important to get the structure right from the start.

Milly Camley of Westbury Associates said the sector has many assets including its members, media connections and public goodwill, but securing media coverage is "not quick and not cheap".

"Horticulture Week was hugely instrumental in setting up TPA. That's a really great start." But she added: "It took me nearly three months to get a story in The Evening Standard."

Greenspace Scotland chief executive Julie Procter said her organisation decided not to find a minister for parks but instead to position green space as "a vehicle for delivering on a wide range of policy priorities". She advocated recruiting "sleepers and evangelists" and becoming "a trustworthy partner".

National Parks England director Paul Hamblin called TPA "an important opportunity" and advocated making life easier for politicians and civil servants' before seeking their help.

After the meeting, TPA chair Mark Camley said: "It's really good because people have been challenging what we've done. I'd have been more worried if they said everything was fine."

The Parks Alliance Vision and action plan

The Parks Alliance vision

"The social, health, environmental, cultural and economic value of public parks is championed by a green space sector, united in a common cause and by a shared mission."

What will it do?

Provide leadership, evangelise, campaign, research and raise funds. Be open and transparent with ethical values, learning, innovation and sustainable.

What next?

Results of two conference round table discussions circulated and discussed at next board meeting on 24 June and further discussion at Saltex on 2 September. Establish company and fundraise with the aim of fully launching in 12 months.

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