In 2019 Birmingham won a place on a new initiative to enhance the future of its parks and green spaces. In the first project of its kind in the UK, Future Parks Accelerator (FPA) was designed to help councils find sustainable ways to manage and fund parks and open spaces across entire towns and cities.
The Naturally Birmingham Vision
Birmingham City Council (BCC) submitted its Naturally Birmingham Project plan to the Future Parks Programme and became one of only eight places across the UK selected by the National Trust (NT), The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG) to take part in its ground-breaking Future Parks programme.
The aims of the Future Parks Accelerator Project were:
1. Promoting a step-change in how people engage with their parks in order to maximise public benefit, local potential and innovation;
2. enabling new cross-sector partnerships that bring together knowledge and expertise from outside the traditional parks sector, embedding new skills;
3. catalysing and blending new sources of funding to enable diversified and sustainable business models that are attractive to new donors, funders and investors;
4. adopting a systemic approach so that a whole place’s portfolio of public green space is protected and enhanced, delivering a fair, quality and free service to all.
WHY DID THE UK’S PARKS AND GREEN SPACES NEED AN ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME?
Whether our green spaces are parks, allotments, nature reserves, country parks, public
open spaces, parts of our homes, cemeteries, wildlife corridors, woodlands, playing fields, community gardens, the bit of grass at the end of the road or two planters greening a grey street, their importance has always been recognised by the individuals that use them. But over recent years the funding available for the development and care of green spaces has been reduced.
FUTURE PARKS ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME BACKGROUND
Just as we are beginning to show the true value of open spaces to our society and economy, the future of our public parks is under threat due to a reduction in local authority funding.
In response, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Trust, with government support, announced a multi-million pound initiative to secure the future of the UK’s urban parks and green spaces. In the first project of its kind in the UK, eight urban areas are joining forces in a pioneering programme called the Future Parks initiative.
National Trust – Our vision for the future of parks
The National Lottery Heritage Fund
The National Lottery Heritage Fund joined forces with the National Trust to find and back ambitious and sustainable solutions to protect and enhance public parks and green spaces.
FPA is a UK-wide £10m strategic initiative.
It is helping eight local authorities and communities develop and implement innovative funding and management solutions for all their green spaces, against a challenging backdrop of financial uncertainty.
The FPA will support places to grow the contribution parks make to civic life while becoming financially sustainable. It will involve discovering how parks and green spaces could be better used, managed and funded to serve community needs and aspirations now and over the next generation.
With grant funding and support from a team of experts, the places chosen to be FPA pioneers will work together to catalyse and share innovation, learn rapidly together and build their capacity to lead for ambitious change both in their place and to benefit the rest of the UK.
The FPA will promote an holistic approach, ensuring that all parks and green spaces in an area are protected and enhanced to deliver quality and fair access to green spaces for free for everyone.
“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 hundreds of years from now.” Ros Kerslake, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s CEO
Heritage Fund – HLF and National Trust join forces to improve parks
What the Future Parks Project achieved in Birmingham
June 2022 saw the end of the Future Parks Project in Birmingham with the publishing of the Birmingham City of Nature Plan https://naturallybirmingham.org/birmingham-city-of-nature-delivery-framework/
This Delivery Plan will change the way Birmingham treats its natural environment and how it thinks about the future of its parks and green spaces. It also has a strong focus on how
green spaces impact human life and will involve the whole council and its core third sector partners though a City of Nature Alliance; whilst reaching out to the citizens of Birmingham to facilitate significantly more involvement.
Following on from the original 4 council priorities of the FPA Project the Birmingham City of Nature Plan will work across 5 city wide themes where nature is recognised as integral to wider decision making and planning and that also embraces the circular economy. The learning gained as part of the FPA programme has highlighted 5 key themes, representing areas relating to nature which are either currently being missed, or are not sufficiently well connected within Council operations and so form part of a new governance model for the natural environment.