Tag Archives: Parks

More funding for staff in parks

From The Argus

New funding will increase staffing at “under-pressure” city parks such as The Level

MORE funding has been made for staff to monitor Brighton and Hove’s “under-pressure” parks.

A Brighton and Hove City Council budget underspend of more than £600,000 will be used to pay for a weekend manager at some of the city’s busiest parks.

Money will also be made available to contribute to the Shoreham Memorial, a loan to Saltdean Lido, more support for unions and to launch a community scheme for ward councillors.

The move was criticised as irresponsible by Conservative councillors who proposed initially putting the sum into reserves until the end of this financial year in which the authority has to make £21 million of cuts.

They described increased union funding as a bribe to keep them quiet after recent threats of industrial action over the outsourcing of the learning disability accommodation service.

The Tories also claimed additional money for ward councillors was “papering over the cracks” of criticism of the council’s support for its members expected in the yet-to-be-published Local Government Association peer review.

Green amendments reduced the amount set aside for the ward member community budget scheme from almost £300,000 to £60,000, undid almost £200,000 of cuts from February’s budget and raised parks funding by a further £27,000.

Councillor Tony Janio, Conservative group leader, said the minority Labour administration should have brought forward a “mini budget” allowing all councillors to vote on how to use the underspend.

He said: “Instead what we find is £800,000 suddenly being thrown around at the administration’s will.

“This administration is a fiscally incontinent machine, it sees money and wantonly spends it.

“They should take the underspend in month two when there is little idea what the outcome will be in month 12, and put the money in reserves and then have a proper discussion of how to benefit the citizens of the city.”

Fellow Tory Andrew Wealls described the move as: “£300,000 to bung to councillors to spend in their own wards.

“The LGA report doesn’t say bung money to spend, it says support them with casework.

“It doesn’t say bung the unions £50,000.

“The idea of giving unions support through this process is complete and utter nonsense. “The unions have done everything in their power to uphold the transfer to Grace Eyre. “Now they want to bribe them to go away and stop making life so difficult for us.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, deputy leader, said the underspend showed the administration was showing good financial management which the Conservatives should welcome.

She said: “It is responsible from the administration to get additional grass cutting and getting additional eyes and ears in parks when it is needed into evenings and weekends.

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Putting open spaces on the right track

Brighton & Hove has published a new open spaces strategy that will shape the future of parks and open spaces in the city.

The results of the ‘Big Conversation’ consultation on open spaces last autumn, which attracted more than 3,500 responses, have guided the draft strategy.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “Councils up and down the country are facing the challenge of how to fund parks and opens spaces with reducing budgets. We will learn from the successes of other local authorities and build on the excellent work already being done in Brighton & Hove, in particular by volunteers.

“As the city grows the preservation of open space becomes even more important, providing areas for play, relaxation and exercise. Parks are among the most used public assets and highly valued by residents. We have taken their views into account in drawing up this strategy and will continue to involve them.”

Last autumn’s Big Conversation asked residents what their spending priorities were for parks and open spaces and their thoughts on how to manage with less, including creating new revenue such as cafes, sponsors, events and charges. Funding for councils from central government is falling, with parks traditionally one of local authorities’ smallest budgets. Between 2009 and 2020 Brighton & Hove’s parks could lose around one third of its money.

The strategy asks the council to look at a range of policies and actions to put parks on a firm footing in order to maintain facilities for the future. It highlights funding opportunities and the need to build on ideas that came out of the consultation.

These include:

  • Exploring the establishment of a Parks Foundation to lead on fundraising
  • Creating more income for parks, working in partnership  with businesses and potential sponsors, and other organisations such as the Football Association and lottery funders
  • Developing other partnerships to care for open spaces, such as with colleges and universities, the Wildlife Trust, Ramblers, Biosphere partners and the South Downs National Park Authority.

Over the next 10 years the strategy also calls on the council to:

  • Develop a tree strategy (In the Big Conversation, respondents identified trees  as the most important asset in parks and gardens for future funding)
  • Enable members of the public to cut their own grass verges (87% of respondents said the council should support residents cutting grass verges with their own tools)
  • Build on the success of volunteers by creating more opportunities and making sure they get the support they need (Most of the city’s 38 Friends of Parks volunteer groups told the council they need more support to continue their work and more than half of respondents to the Big Conversation (58%) expressed an interest in helping out in parks)
  • Introduce more natural play features (74.2% of respondents tended to agree, or strongly agreed, to replacing some play equipment from children’s playgrounds with natural play features)

Playgrounds remain one of the biggest challenges for the city’s parks service. Because of the success of securing £2m of funds for playgrounds in 2009, a large amount of the city’s playground equipment will need replacing over the next five to 10 years, at a cost of another £2m. There has been some success so far, with playground equipment provided recently in Manor Road, Saltdean Oval and Hove Lagoon through public donations and planning contributions.

Work to put the strategy’s proposals into practice would start in 2017 if agreed by the committee. Councillors will also take into account the funding challenges and suggestions for parks as they set the council’s budget in February.

Read the draft open spaces strategy.

Keep up to date with the future of our parks and open spaces.

Parks face threat of decline with severe consequences

From Fields In Trust

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Last week was an important one for those of us interested in the UK’s parks and green spaces.

On Saturday the long-awaited report from the Parliamentary Communities and Local Government Committee’s Public parks inquiry was published, setting out a series of recommendations for government and calling for clear leadership of the sector.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, BBC Breakfast TV and Sky News to respond to the report and champion our parks and playing fields. The report came just days after the publication of the Housing White Paper which could open the door to increased housing development on recreational land. We will be monitoring these policy developments over the forthcoming months and publishing our own research findings.

The CLG Committee’s report recommends recognising the wider value of parks to contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities; our new research report focussed on Centenary Park, Rugby illustrates, in microcosm, the value that access to green space provides for communities across the UK.

Read our response to the Public parks inquiry report.

Also this month, our ezine highlights some funding opportunities that may be available for green space community projects and shares information about the Great British Spring Clean, a campaign we are supporting.

Remember, between ezine updates you can keep in touch with Fields in Trust via social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Downland sales halted again

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth

City Councillors have rejected a recommendation to resume the sale of Plumpton Hill and Poynings Field. The sales had been suspended in December, as a result of widespread outrage at the prospect of flogging off these vital parts of the City’s historic 12,500 acre Downland Estate.

At a meeting on 19 January Conservative and Green councillors passed a motion requiring the sale of the two vulnerable sites to be referred to a new Policy Review Panel. The sales were intended to part-fund the controversial Stanmer Park Project and to contribute to the alleviation of the Council’s debt.

All the Downland that has been sold or is threatened with sale is within the South Downs National Park.

Keep Our Downs Public is a coalition of local people which was formed in 1994-5 to successfully fight the proposed privatisation of the whole Downland Estate by the then ruling Labour Party. A new Keep…

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£3.8m lottery funding for Stanmer Park approved

Brighton & Hove City Council’s bid for £3.8 million Lottery funding to restore Stanmer Park has been successful.

Brighton & Hove City Council has received a confirmed grant of £3.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund’s Parks for People scheme, and the news is being welcomed across the city.

“It’s fantastic news,” said Cllr Gill Mitchell, Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.

“This project has the potential not just to restore a substantial part of Stanmer Park to its former glory, but develop the area and provide exciting new experiences, employment and opportunities for residents and visitors both now and in the future.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the New Year!”

The Stanmer Park and Estate Restoration Project will see around 20 hectares of the park’s landscape, and Grade II listed and other buildings restored and given new life. The total cost of the restoration project is £5.8 million and the council plans to cover the remaining costs through match funding and revenue and contributions from partner organisation and donors.

For the past two years council officers have been working with representatives from Plumpton College, the South Downs National Park and other organisations including Historic England, to prepare a Masterplan for the park following a £300,000 grant from Parks for People.

Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive for the South Downs National Park Authority, said:
“Stanmer Park is a unique survival from the Georgian age and this grant will restore its original landscape. It will also make it much easier for the people of Brighton and Hove to access the National Park on their doorstep.”

Alma Howell, Assistant Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas for Historic England added: “The success of this bid will start a process of helping to remove Stanmer Park from our Heritage at Risk Register by delivering a number of restoration projects and a stronger heritage led vision for the estate.

We look forward to continuing to work with the council to find positive sustainable solutions for the remaining ‘At Risk’ factors.”

The Masterplan aims to improve the main entrance and 18th century parkland, Walled Garden and Nursery and the adjacent depot area.

This includes:
• Restoring the landscape and heritage features
• Addressing traffic and parking issues, and improving access to the park
• Relocating the council’s City Parks depot
• Restoring the Walled Garden and surrounding area
• Delivering horticultural and heritage gardening training and food production
• Providing educational and learning opportunities
• Explaining the heritage and importance of the Estate
• A long term vision for the estate over the next 10 years.

The proposals also include re-allocating car parking, creating some additional spaces, and overflow provision, to accommodate some of the extra 300,000 visitors expected each year.

The car parking improvements include a new landscaped car park at the Patchway – an area currently used for car parking and the Cityparks depot which will also replace parking areas at Stanmer House.

The Lower Lodges will see the current parking areas formally laid out and landscaped to include an extra100 spaces while smaller car parks and ad-hoc parking along the main drive will be removed.

A Transport Plan includes cycle parking, a proposed cycle hire hub, improved walking and cycling routes, and signage from Falmer station.

The restoration project will include a variety of opportunities for volunteering and training in horticulture, heritage gardening and food production, along with facilities for learning about the heritage of the estate, historic landscape and the South Downs.

Plumpton College has agreed, in principle, to manage and maintain the walled garden on a lease from the council.

Ian Rideout, Head of Faculty Forestry, Horticulture and Foundation Learning at Plumpton College said: “We are delighted to be a key partner in this project that will greatly benefit the local community.

“We look forward to continuing to provide learning opportunities at Stanmer Park for local people to access education and training in the walled garden.”
Work on the project will start in the New Year with most restoration works carried out in 2018.

Brighton Elm Tree Walks

From Brighton Elm Trees

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Photo subject to copyright

Brighton has developed and produced a set of maps to help find and identify Elm Trees around the city. The venture has been created by students from Brighton University and have been commissioned by First Base, VisitBrighton, The Brighton and Lewes Downs UNESCO World Biosphere Region and the Pavilion Gardens Cafe.

Graphics Design is by Jessica Keene and Jennifer Whitworth who are University of Brighton Graphic Design Students with Illustrations by Gustav Freij who is a University of Brighton Illustration Student.

The maps will help spark interest with children and adults alike who want to learn more about Brighton and Hove’s City Elms which form the National Elm Collection.

Download Childrens Elm activity map

Sadness at decline of Brighton and Hove’s parks

From The Argus

Autumn colours in Stanmer Park.

Autumn colours in Stanmer Park.

Brighton and Hove’s parks boss has expressed her sadness at the decline in our city’s green spaces.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chairwoman of the environment committee, contacted The Argus after we highlighted the plight of Preston Park in last Monday’s paper.

She said: “It saddens me that many of our residents, city parks staff and gardeners can remember a time when there was more funding available and a real sense of pride in the city’s parks, and are now having to witness this decline.”

The city’s parks are suffering following budget cuts over the last few years.

Council bosses now propose cutting a further £600,000 from the budget.

The city’s largest park, Stanmer, is hoping for £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Funding to overcome a number of problems which are widespread across Brighton and Hove’s green spaces.

Cllr Mitchell said: “It’s encouraging to hear how much people really value their neighbourhood parks and recreation areas, and want to see them protected and preserved into the future.

“It’s good to see The Argus taking an interest in the future of parks and open spaces in the city.

“The parks and open spaces budget is one of the council’s smallest budgets- approximately £14 per person a year – and the continuing central government funding cuts means the council is no longer able to provide the levels of funding currently needed to maintain its parks and open spaces.

“This leaves us with no option but to radically rethink the way we manage parks in the city.”

The city’s parks budget was £4 million last year but the department’s budget is due to be cut by £600,000 to £3.4 million between now and 2020.

The council has launched a consultation into the future of its 147 parks and green spaces warning that they will not be able to save all of the city’s 53 playgrounds as they tighten their belts.

Community groups and residents could be asked to take responsibility over parks.

Residents are being asked to support replacing play equipment with natural play features carved from trees which require less maintenance.

The consultation continues until October 28.

THE SURVIVAL OF STANMER IS ESSENTIAL FOR EVERYBODY

THE future of the city’s largest park will be dependent on heritage funding.

Brighton and Hove City Council has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for almost £4 million to restore Stanmer Park.

Councillor Gill Mitchell described the funding bid as “a one-off opportunity to halt the decline of the city’s largest park.”

While those closest to the park agree that funding is desperately needed, the question of priorities remains.

In July 2014 the council made two applications for Heritage Lottery Funding. There was an unsuccessful grant application to renovate Home Farm but a £300,000 grant to develop a proposal to regenerate the walled garden and other parts of the landscape was accepted.

Since then, council officers have been working with Plumpton College and the South Downs National Park and Heritage England to prepare a master plan for the park and develop a long-term vision for the estate.

A decision on the Heritage Lottery Fund bid is due in December.

A public consultation on Stanmer Park earlier this year highlighted concerns about access, signage, dog mess, parking, cycle lanes and the lack of public bus services.

For campaigner Jamie Hooper, who founded the Friends of Stanmer Park, the survival of the park is essential – not just for Stanmer residents like himself but for all in Brighton and Hove.

He said: “I’m looking from the perspective of the person who lives in a tower block or terraced cottage and wants to come out with the family and kick a ball about and have a cup of tea in the tea room.

“The problem is nobody thinks about the park as an amenity for the wider community. They don’t think about it as a city park but as a private property for an aristocratic family.

“I don’t think what’s being planned is going to be good value for money.”

Some of the issues currently facing the park include damage to the access road which has been badly patched up over the years.

Many of the farm buildings have also been left to fall into disrepair.

Among the conservation plans include the felling of 200 trees and moving another 50 to restore the park to Capability Brown’s (the park’s designer) original vision.

However, for many users their priorities are that the park can be maintained in the future for all of the city’s residents, who don’t care where the trees are located.

Of more sentimental concern is the fact that many of the trees are memorials with people’s ashes sprinkled at their trunks.

Mr Hooper added: “I don’t think most park users particularly care if the park exactly resembled Capability Brown’s vision. Most probably don’t know who he was. But that’s not what makes Stanmer special.”

Mr Hooper said he would rather see a kiosk and toilets or cycle hire facilities.

The crumbling public toilets in the village are set to be moved but he said the money could be better spent repairing them.

“If the council officers making these decisions were talking about their own property they would never let it fall into this state.

“As a businessman I don’t think they are making the best use of the money.

“I’m sure there will be benefits but perhaps not as great as there could be.”

The plans will also reduce the amount of parking space within the park, which campaigners fear may send visitors elsewhere.

The city council has plans to rent buildings next to the walled garden to Plumpton College.

However it is understood the college will not pay any rent until the walled garden, which it runs, is profitable.

The park, which falls within the South Downs National Park for planning purposes, is owned by Brighton and Hove City Council.