Minister updates on work of Parks Action Group

The Parks Action Group, which is comprised of a Cross-Government group of senior officials and a sectoral group with project management from The Parks Alliance, have been taking forward the recommendations of the Select Committee report into public parks in England published in 2017.

The Minister for Parks recently gave an update on progress against all of the recommendations of Select Committee.

The sectoral group has been working on five key areas in response to the select committee report and progress on each area, and what happens next.

The five key areas are:

Valuing Parks and Green Spaces - This group is chaired by The Parks Alliance and is charged with developing Business Case for Parks to be published prior to the next government spending review in the autumn. The business case will be based on natural capital accounting principles and will be aimed at influencing key decision makers in national and local government. Parks practitionershave been involved in determining the true picture of parks maintenance funding at an all England level in preparation for the business case. This continues to prove challenging given the way parks funding is recorded in local authority returns. The aim is to publish the business case by the summer and will be running a media campaign over the coming months to help #makethecaseforparks.

Standards for Parks and Green Spaces - This group is chaired by Field in Trust and aims to identify a definitive baseline figure of parks and green spaces by typology and assess the percentage of this base line that currently meets Green Flag Award standard and is protected in perpetuity. The group is currently working closely with Natural England (who are leading on developing national standards for all Green Infrastructure) and others to ensure the developing GI Standards include a specific subset of standards and guidance that can be effectively applied to both existing and new parks and green spaces. The national work is has just finished its evidence review and draft framework and aims to ensure the standards are integrated into National Planning Policy Guidance by 2020.

Community Empowerment - This group is chaired by The National Federation of Parks and Green Space (NFPGS) and aims to promote and support the effectiveness and influence of community empowerment throughout the sector and on the ground within the country’s 27,000 local green spaces. A series of regional ‘Parks and People – Stronger Together’ community empowerment events of Friends Groups and green space community groups is currently being planned by Locality, NFPGS and Groundwork in order to support the development of forums and networks around the country – and encourage long-term partnership-working with Local Authorities. A NFPGS Networks Coordinator post has been funded to coordinate this. Research conducted last year indicated strong support among Local Authorities for this strategy.

Knowledge and Skills - This group is chaired by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) and aims to identify the knowledge and skills required by modern parks managers and all those helping manage parks and green spaces in the future. The group has completed an initial piece of research “Nurturing Skills for 21stCentury Parks” and is currently mapping the available parks forums and sources of knowledge and good practice open to parks managers as well as consulting on the knowledge requirements of parks practitioners. The next steps are to begin to put together a Sector Skills Plan that provides training and development pathways for the range of managers working in the sector with the clear aim of spreading and embedding the good practice and strengthening parks management.

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