The Future of Public Parks

The publishers of the journal The London Gardener (Vol 22, 2018) have very kindly given us permission to re-publish (here) a recent article from their contributor “Perambulator”. It is Parks for People: gone for good and describes the sudden end of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s programme to restore Britain’s public parks. Gunnersbury managed to get HLF funding just in time.

The article goes on to describe the impact of the austerity programme on local government funding – which may well have already destroyed the massive HLF investment – and the desperate solutions being proposed by some councils to move their parks off their books and into trusts. Even with extensive commercial activities to fund them, some of these trusts cannot succeed.

In 2016 one of the leading researchers into parks gave a lecture to the London Historic Parks and Gardens about all the strategies used to fund parks from their earliest days in the nineteenth century to the present. In many cases they had been bought by or given to local authorities in the first place as the last resort before they were developed, or to enhance the value of local building land nearby. The main alternatives to local authority funding (all of which have been tried in various ways since the 19th century) are the private sector, philanthropic giving, charitable trusts, the voluntary sector, community ownership, income generation, fundraising and sponsorship. When it was set up in the 1920s Gunnersbury hoped for reliable income from sport and recreation; today, big events are its lifeline. In recent years there have been funded programmes to explore “Rethinking Parks” – to find new ways of supporting them. The central fact, both from the early days of parks and now, is that core local authority funding can support top-up initiatives such as volunteering, but without it, such initiatives do not last.

If you want to read more:

The report: Learning to Rethink Parks, 2016

The Rethinking Parks Project Page:

The HLF State of Parks report 2016 – here

Town And Country Parks, House of Commons, 1999, report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee: