A consultation ‘Big Conversation’ is to be launched in the summer by the Council on the future of Croydon’s parks once the Cabinet has approved the strategy paper on Monday 21 March.
The Cabinet is being asked to ‘approve the approach ….. to engage the residents, community groups and other stakeholders on proposals to maximise the benefits that parks and green spaces provide and their contribution to achieving wider health, regeneration and culture outcomes.’
‘The parks review ….. has examined how we manage and provide parks and green spaces, and has looked at the potential to use, manage and resource them differently in future. The overall outcomes we are trying to achieve are improving health and wellbeing through participation in sports and physical activity, improving the diversity and attraction of borough’s “cultural offer” through a calendar of exciting community events and entertainment in our parks, and introducing greater element of “community stewardship” through community involvement in all aspects of running parks from managing grounds maintenance services, to making improvements, to raising funds for specific projects. (para 2.2)
‘However, to do this well we need to work in partnership with our residents and communities and come to a common understanding about the role we want parks to play in future, what we, as individuals and as a community, want to be able to do and get out of our parks and green spaces, and the relationship between the Council and our communities in making decisions about investment and improvements, about their day to day management, and about events, activities and entertainment.’ (Para 2.3)
Existing Council policy (Ambitious for Croydon) commits it to:
- Keeping parks safe
- Providing a named Park Keeper and a team working with the community
- Enabling local communities to take decisions affecting their parks
- Enabling young people, unemployed, disabled people to learn skills and gain valuable experience through restoring and improving the borough’s parks and green spaces
The Council’s Parks Service manages and maintains over 1,000 hectares of parkland, playgrounds, sports and other facilities. The Borough has 127 different parks and green spaces and 17 allotment sites.
Volunteers provide over 7,000 days a year valued at £500,000.
Croydon’s parks are highly valued by residents.
The Big Parks Convseration
The big parks conversation will be launched in the summer and will continue until the winter. It ‘will ask residents and organisations about how they use parks now, and will ask if they want to become involved in managing and improving services in the future, how can the Council help enable this engagement and participation to happen, and how can we work together to do things differently.’ (Para 3.13)
The report sets out a number of proposed actions under a number of themes.
‘3.16. IMPROVING HEALTH &WELLBEING
We will ensure that our parks and green spaces support and encourage active lifestyles, provide high quality sports facilities, give children a space to play in, address inequalities and host a range of well publicised activities for all (walks for health, outdoor gyms, etc.) We will also focus on food growing initiatives in parks and improve allotments provision, including reviewing the opportunities to convert other open land to allotments’
- i) Produce a playing pitch assessment and investment plan:Work has already started on a playing pitch assessment (a consultant was appointed in December 2015). The assessment will be completed in August 2016 and will be used to develop an Outdoor Sports Facilities and Playing Pitch Plan to guide investment in outdoor sports provision and facilities in the future which will be completed in December 2016.
- ii) Explore additional sources of funding: Identify and secure additional sources of funding for investment in improved sports and other facilities in parks and green spaces (sensitive to the local environment).
iii) Develop leasing opportunities for sports pitches: Build on our knowledge and relationships with local sports organisations and leagues and investigate alternative managing arrangements such as transferring sports pitch assets to full community management model or leasing facilities.
- iv) Map sports and physical activity: Update our knowledge of current organised activities taking place in parks, collect data on participation that will make it easier to engage with and promote healthy lifestyle initiatives available to residents.
- v) Increase awareness and uptake: Improve the awareness of activities available to local residents through advertising, promotion and marketing and through the sports development service
- vi) Develop alternative management models for our allotment sites: Develop different options for our directly managed allotment sites and decide which one to take forward.
‘3.21. AN EXCITING ATTRACTIVE CULTURAL OFFER
We will ensure our parks and green spaces provide a contrast to the busy urban environment, offer the opportunity to do everything from take a pleasant walk, to be surprised by community art, give support to a community event, or take in a show, a concert, or open air theatre, with a calendar of exciting events throughout the year that attract visitors, and help support the local economy’
- i) Produce a parks events prospectus and market test: Update out existing guidance on holding events in parks, and create a prospectus setting out the opportunities in Croydon for commercial events’ organisers. We will undertake market testing exercise, possibly linking with local businesses.
- ii) Advertise and promote events and entertainment: Promote and advertise events and activities held in our parks and green spaces to maximise attendance and encourage participation in organisation and management
iii) Expand the calendar of events held in parks: Identify new events and suitable locations in which to hold them
‘3.26. ENCOURAGING COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP
We will develop a partnership with our local communities to ensure groups and volunteers are supported and encouraged to take an equal role in and responsibility for the improvement and direct management of parks and green spaces – from raising funds, to volunteering, right through to full management via Community Asset Transfer’
- i) Develop social capital: Work with CVA and the VCS in Croydon to develop social capital and the infrastructure to support it
- ii) Support the Croydon Parks, Woodlands and Greenspaces Forum: Support the continued development of the independent Parks, Woodlands and Greenspaces Forum
iii) Develop and support volunteer capacity: Work with the parks volunteer organisation and to bring together current activity / projects and explore the potential for increasing the capacity of volunteer groups and diversity of activities achieved
- iv) Support funding bids: Identify and support sites/areas/projects that local groups would like to contribute to either by securing external funding or volunteering
‘3.31. BIODIVERSITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
We will ensure the essential role parks, woodlands and green spaces play in reducing the effects of climate change – urban heat reduction, improving air quality, providing sustainable drainage systems (SUDS), and preserving biodiversity – is recognised, valued and preserved. As well as the vital role they play in providing access to green space and nature, protecting and enhancing green space and biodiversity, promoting conservation, environmental education, and recreation.’
- i) Conservation work with TCV: Work in partnership with TCV to deliver conservation work renewing our commitment to core funding the project
- ii) Support for conservation work: we will look for ways to continue to support and fund the conservation work delivered by the network of organisations, friends of groups and third sector partners working in our parks and open spaces.
iii) Continue with our support for the Downlands Project in delivering conservation, habitat and green infrastructure improvements in the borough
- iv) Work with the GLA on environmental sustainability: working with the GLA on environmental sustainability projects including applying for funding for conservation work
- v) Actively manage our woodlands, heathland and downland to create bio diverse accessible places
- vi) Improve access to nature in deprived areas through habitat creation and improvements and/or infrastructure improvements
vii) Seek out opportunities to work with new partners in regional projects that benefit the borough such as : Beeline for London with Buglife, & Great North Wood Project with LondonWildlife Trust
‘3.35. A SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY MODEL
We will proactively work towards seeking and establishing new partnerships, encouraging community engagement and securing additional funding to ensure that by allocating resources more strategically and investing where we can increase functionality and income generation we encourage operation of different financial models that support a sustainable and flexible service.’
- i) Review the ground maintenance and other contracts: Undertake a review of the current ground and facility maintenance contracts and align resources with the classification
- ii) Work with sub-regional partners: work with sub-regional partners to explore alternative provision of parks services
iii) Improve the effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness of current contractors: review current performance and identify improvements to current services provision
- iv) Classify parks: Complete the work to classify parks and green spaces according to their use and potential in order to strategically allocate resources and investment
- v) Embed an asset management approach to parks and green spaces: Use the classification to embed an asset management approach and provide evidence for strategic management of park
The full report can be seen here:
The experience in Norbury
In Norbury although a previous consultation had suggested a BMX trail for Norbury Park, the Council has been trying to impose a BMX track and met with strong opposition from a large number of local residents because of its size, its location within the Park, its lack of supervision on 6 days and its location at the northern end of the Borough reducing its Borough wide benefit. The Planning Committee deferred approval for further consultation. A community event was organised by the Parks team on 20 February, and dates are awaited for a follow-up meeting to evaluate the outcomes of the event. The newly formed Norbury Avenue & Thornton Heath Residents Association has set up a Friends sub-group, with the support of the other four associations. The debate led me to produce a discussion paper The Future of Norbury Park as background document to help develop the many positive ideas residents have for improving the Park. Scots Estate Residents Association will be launching a Friends group for Norbury Hall Park in April. The discussion paper can be seen here:
Hopefully the more partnership approach outlined in the Parks Review report will have a positive effect on the next stage of discussions with the Council on Norbury Park.