UK first as towns & cities are chosen for £11m initiative to save green spaces

Press release
People sunbathing in a park with blossom trees
Published : 17 Jun 2019

A multi-million pound initiative to secure the future of the UK’s urban parks and green spaces is launched today by the National Trust and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with support from the government.

In the first project of its kind in the UK, eight urban areas are joining forces in a pioneering programme designed to find sustainable ways to manage and fund parks and open spaces across entire towns and cities.

The Future Parks initiative is investing more than £6m of National Lottery and government funding, and £5m worth of advice and support from some of the country’s leading experts in conservation, fundraising, volunteering and green space management from the National Trust.

The eight places, covering a population of five million people, were chosen in a UK-wide national competition, and selected for their ambitious and creative plans to put green spaces right at the heart of local communities. They are:

• Birmingham;
• Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole;
• Bristol;
• Cambridgeshire (county-wide, covering seven council areas);
• Edinburgh;
• Islington and Camden;
• Nottingham; and
• Plymouth

The green space across the eight Future Parks places totals more than 20,000 hectares – an area equivalent to about 35,000 football pitches – ranging from parks, woodlands and cemeteries to allotments, playing fields and nature reserves.

The eight places were among 81 councils and communities that applied to be part of the ground-breaking programme, collectively asking for more than £60million for new plans to secure the future of their parks and open spaces.

All winning bids demonstrated four key themes: making green spaces central to everyday community life; giving the public a bigger role in how they are managed; ensuring they contribute more to the public’s mental and physical health; and transforming the way they are funded to secure their futures.  

For instance, in Islington and Camden the councils will focus on using parks and green spaces to improve health and wellbeing by developing closer links to the NHS, health providers, doctors and health charities.

This latest announcement comes as the UK’s parks face mounting financial pressure. A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies last month showed that councils were spending less on services, with leisure services such as parks and green spaces falling down the priority list.

This comes despite increased numbers of people using open green spaces and more areas being created as part of housing developments, according to the State of UK Parks report from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government’s own data.

The eight selected places will now join Newcastle, a founding city of Future Parks, which has successfully developed a new parks and allotments trust to look after the city’s green spaces.

This is the first time in the UK that a programme of this scale and ambition has been attempted for urban green spaces across entire towns and cities. The National Trust and The National Lottery Heritage Fund set up the joint venture because of their shared passion to ensure quality green, open space is easily and freely accessible for everyone, for generations to come.

Hilary McGrady, the National Trust’s Director General, said: “Today is a landmark moment for the nation’s urban parks. This is not just about new ways to fund and support these much-loved community spaces, but completely re-thinking the role green spaces play in our lives and how we can ensure they thrive for generations to come.

“We need to give parks a reboot and start thinking about them as essential elements of our communities in the same way we think about housing or transport. Future Parks is the beginning of something really exciting. What these eight places achieve will help guide how other councils and communities can really make a difference to securing the future of their parks too.

“Ensuring everyone has the opportunity to enjoy green spaces is nothing new to the National Trust; nearly 125 years ago one of our founders, Octavia Hill, created the National Trust so that green spaces could be ‘kept for the enjoyment, refreshment and rest of those who have no country house’.”

Ros Kerslake, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s CEO, said: “Our urban parks and green spaces are essential to the health and well-being of the nation and yet in some areas they are facing a very insecure future. Future Parks isn’t simply patching-up a few problem parks. It is enabling local authorities and communities to take a longer-term, strategic approach to managing, funding and maintaining them, so future generations will be able to enjoy their many benefits in hundreds of years from now.

“Developing strategic approaches and championing innovation are key elements of our new five-year funding strategy. Future Parks allows us to maximise our resources and to work with key partners to accelerate progress and share learning.” 

Alongside the £5m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, in February the government announced it was handing Future Parks £1.2m from an overall £13m dedicated to green spaces.

Minister for Parks and Green Spaces, Rishi Sunak said: “The UK’s parks and green spaces offer invaluable opportunities to explore nature, alongside some of our country’s most fascinating history and heritage. What is more, being out in their surroundings boosts our health and wellbeing in countless ways.

“The National Trust is a treasured institution and it is great to see a partnership with the National Heritage Lottery Fund which now leads the way in influencing future generations to keep on protecting and developing the natural resources on our doorsteps.

“There are challenges for us all in ensuring parks and green spaces are protected, which is why I am pleased to support the transformational approach of Future Parks. The programme sets a long-term agenda for the management and maintenance of urban green spaces and this is why my department has committed £1.2m to ensure its goals are achieved.

“I look forward to seeing how the eight places selected across the UK begin to come together, innovate and realise their ambitions of future-proofing the nation’s parks and green spaces for everyone to enjoy.” 

Over the next two years, the eight places will work together to develop tools, approaches, skills and finance to create their new way of managing green space as well as sharing their experience with other councils.