Website sets park-trending goal

City Bridge Trust launches TripAdvisor-style website designed to boost London's public parks.

Parklife London: website pages dedicated to parks across the capital - image: City of London Corporation
Parklife London: website pages dedicated to parks across the capital - image: City of London Corporation

A website with an interactive map of all London's parks and TripAdvisor-style comments and photos function could provide a new insight into how Londoners use parks.

The website (www.park, developed and launched by City of London Corporation charity City Bridge Trust to cover all Greater London, tells smartphone and tablet users which parks are near them, with dedicated pages giving information about parks and activities within them.

It allows users to add comments, upload pictures and share events - anything from local group meetings or teddy bears' picnics to protests or volunteer events organised by park gardeners.

City Bridge Trust chief grants officer David Farnsworth said the site has the potential to become "the city's green TripAdvisor". He added: "We hope this will help people enjoy London and make it a better place.

"Parks are a great equaliser - we can all have access to them and enjoy them. There's quite a strong link with the environmental strand of our funding. The key message is very much about Londoners embracing it and using it."

The idea grew out of a grant programme called Growing Localities. The trust worked with consultants to develop the site, which has been designed to work equally well on computers, phones or tablets, negating the need for an app. It was tested on the City of London, Hackney, Camden and Lambeth in February last year.

London boroughs, the Royal Parks and the City of London Corporation were all approached during the development stage, generally to an enthusiastic response.

So far one trust employee is pre-moderating comments and pictures, and the trust has access to another pot of money in case more staff are needed. Approved partners such as the Federation of City Farms have full editorial access and the site itself cost less than £9,000 to develop.

Farnsworth said tapping into how people now use social media was "very much the idea from the start" and seeing a park or park event trending on Twitter would be very welcome. Meanwhile, parks can use the site to connect with volunteers or encourage event attendance.

"The idea is to enable people to take ownership and to cut out the intermediary. People who manage these spaces will have the means to increase awareness of volunteering," added Farnsworth.

"Parks are so integral in terms of the life of the community, it's a no-brainer for us," he said. "Hopefully it will make people aware of what's out there."

Fair comment - Critical remarks allowed

Parks managers could gain useful information from Parklife London but must be prepared to accept criticism, according to City Bridge Trust chief grants officer David Farnsworth.

He said it would be very interesting to see how the site is used and the trust will allow critical comments even if they upset the park authority, providing they are not libellous, obscene, racist or homophobic.

The trust uses Google analytics and Farnsworth said it will be open to "all reasonable requests" to share data.

"We're not trying to be some repository of lots of data - that would be onerous," he added. "But we're absolutely open to sharing what we can."

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