Sector bids to save key parks projects

Parks leaders are rallying around to see who can salvage elements of GreenSpace in the wake of the recent announcement that the charity will cease trading.

Numerous institutes and societies have been touted as possible saviours for various services that were previously run by the parks charity, such as the GreenLink network, the GreenStat survey system and the Love Parks promotional week.

The Institute of Horticulture (IoH), the Landscape Institute and the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) have all been mentioned, as have Lantra and Greenspace Scotland, which impressed the sector a year ago by completing an audit of all the green space north of the border.

The IoH has had talks with GreenSpace chief executive Paul Bramhill and trustees on taking over GreenLink meetings. President elect Andrew Gill said he envisages rotating the chair between key players such as APSE, Lantra, Groundwork and the Conservation Volunteers (TCV).

"We would be very interested in picking up the reins of GreenLink," he said. "We do not want that excellent cross-sector forum to disappear. We would not be prepared to pay for it because it doesn't have intrinsic IPR (intellectual property right)."

However, Gill went on to rule out taking over all or part of other areas such as GreenStat or Love Parks because they are not the right strategic fit for the IoH and "the more commercial or operational side of things isn't really for us".

He said it is too early to say how GreenLink could be developed, especially as the institute is hoping to receive its royal charter later this year. Chartered status may be a draw to members of the Institute of Parks & Green Space, who may wish to join, he added.

Nottingham City Council head of parks and open spaces Eddie Curry said the International Federation of Parks & Recreation Administration would be a good candidate to take over international development.

"My preferred route for other parts would be through one of the registered institutes such as the IoH or the Landscape Institute, with strong strategic focus, instead of the likes of TCV and Groundwork, which would have a slightly different focus," he added.

Parks consultant Russell McDonnell said a firmer grip is needed on GreenStat. The Land Trust, which led the recent regeneration of the Liverpool International Garden Festival site, could head up a coalition of partners, he suggested.

"APSE is strong on local government, IoH skills and training Natural England on community engagement," said McDonnell. "A Government body must oversee it in a non-political way and be hands on - we need more than the glossy brochures we got with CABE Space."

Consultant Sid Sullivan said the IoH is "not just the obvious but the plausible choice" to carry the GreenSpace mantle. The continuing emergence of stakeholder groups should give the National Federation of Parks & Green Spaces a bigger say, he added.

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