Richmond hails success of in-house parks programme

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is holding itself up as an example to other local authorities after completing a £5.7m parks improvement programme

The scheme has upped resident satisfaction levels from 66 per cent in 2000 to 93 per cent. The council now also has seven Green Flags, up from none in 2005. Running much of the programme in-house has given its parks team skills for future projects, according to the council.

Richmond boasted that it saved £650,000 by taking the work in-house. Initially, it used Land Use Consultants to masterplan for one key site, Terrace Gardens. But after not going through with a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid, it decided to go it alone.

Parks development manager Gayle Galvin said: "We applied to the HLF but audience development plans parameters changed so it would have taken up to two years while doing the extra work. So we went ahead with our in-house team and own funding."

The council turned the lack of HLF cash into a positive by using greater flexibility in its £1m redevelopment. Match funding brought in an additional £1.1m.

Existing council highways contractor John Crowley did the hard landscaping, while current council contractor Veolia worked on the soft landscaping. The contracts did not have to go out to tender.

Galvin added: "This was an in-house project that would normally be handed over to a contractor, which meant we saved money." In-house landscape architect Portia Baker is now managing the London mayor's priority parks programme, initially in Crane Park.

She said increasing sustainable drought-tolerant planting and using friends groups during the projects would be useful in the future as the council looks to save £15m over the next three years.

Consultant Sid Sullivan added: "Richmond parks is a good local model to look at. But people consult all the time. When you take your car to the garage, you see a consultant. Consultants aren't necessarily expensive. A lot cost less than in-house staff."

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