Team effort and "targeted approach" key to Ealing Council's Green Flag Awards haul

Adopting "a targeted approach" and "a huge team effort" were the top reasons Ealing Council won the most new Green Flag Awards this year.

Two young volunteers planting bulbs at King George’s Playing Fields
Two young volunteers planting bulbs at King George’s Playing Fields

Assistant director of leisure, Chris Bunting and Ealing’s cabinet member for environment and transport, councillor Bassam Mahfouz both said that promoting their parks had become a priority for the council which has gone from no Green Flag Awards in 2011 to two in 2012 and now nine.

Bunting said: "We wanted to bring attention to our oasis in west London. We have 155 green spaces with 18 million visits a year.

"We involved about 30 people across the green space programme. We didn’t invest any revenue funding except for officers’ time. We had a targeted approach. We went for easy wins and quick wins."

The project was boosted by £775,000 of capital funding approved by the council which payed for playground improvements and some 106 funds.

However Bunting said that was "useful but not critical."

"It enabled us to do a few things and was useful to have up our sleeve but really building up this relationship with our communities and grounds maintenance contractor Enterprise and our colleagues within the council was more important."

Bunting’s department involved friends’ and community groups, housing and residents associations and park tenants such as a youth arts organisation as volunteers to help with gardening tasks.

He gave park rangers, "an undervalued resource", a site each and paired them with parks team officers and volunteers.

"We had a series of site visits and meetings across the last six months to ensure the management plan was on track," he added.

Councillor Mahfouz said parks were a key reason people decide to live in Ealing.

"We are absolutely elated with the result. What this does is raise the profile of our parks and if you do all that work it is important to have it recognised.

"We are trying to encourage the community on all sorts of levels, saying this is your park as well. It works when you see transformations on the ground that has been brought about by local people.  You could do everything from the top down but that wouldn’t be affordable or appropriate."

Both men said that Green Flags and a raised profile may not save parks when the council has to make further difficult spending cuts, although Mahfouz was optimistic that "success breeds success."

Bunting said: "If you can get any political capital out of it that’s a bonus, it only goes to help. Whether that’s strong enough to avoid cuts in the future I don’t know."

Next year the council is aiming for 14 Green Flags.

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