Following on from Steve Gibbs’s piece on the importance of professional parks maintenance a couple of weeks ago, hopefully movements such as the Charter For Parks will gain some serious momentum with support from organisations such as Fields In Trust, Keep Britain Tidy, Greenspace Scotland and The Gardens Trust.
If professionals and the public alike get behind such campaigns, eventually the politicians will have no choice but to listen and to act on demands for ring fenced budgets for these community parks and open spaces for our next generation to enjoy.
I personally would like talk about one of the leading drivers of this campaign and the work they have been doing for the last twenty years. The Green Flag Award® scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.
In 1997, when the first Green Flags were awarded, the green space sector in the United Kingdom was in a parlous state. Decades of underfunding had left many once proud and beautiful historic city centre parks derelict, dangerous, no-go areas, and many other green spaces were neglected or barely maintained. Experts with a shared interest in promoting natural spaces from a range of backgrounds came together in response to this decline.
Their intention was to establish agreed standards of good management, to help to justify and evaluate funding, and to bring people back into the parks. And it worked. As the standard became established, other green spaces began to apply for the Award, and now Green Flags fly over parks, cemeteries and crematoria, recreation grounds, canals, reservoirs, educational campuses, hospital grounds, housing estates, nature reserves and allotments. There is no limit on the size of the site; they currently range from less than one hectare to thousands of hectares.
As a Green Flag Judge, I am very proud and honoured to be part of a tremendous team of 600 plus volunteer judges who go around and judge over 2000 sites a year.
It is important we raise the profile and give credit to all those who manage these wonderful assets. Parks and public open spaces are an essential part of our social and economic wellbeing.
Having completed my training as a parks apprentice and working my way up the ranks to become a parks manager, I know only too well the value of these assets and what they bring to our communities.
Our current turfgrass industry and the thousands of people who work in it is derived from the demand on the services required to manage these public open spaces.
One of the reasons I left the Local Authority service was the fact that we were loosing our voice as parks managers and that budgets and parks services where constantly being driven down year on year. The Green Flag awards has been instrumental in protecting and promoting the value of these greenspaces and raising the profile of all those who manage these sites.
The purpose & aims of attaining green flag status helps to :-
- Ensure that everybody has access to quality green and other open spaces, irrespective of where they live.
- Ensure that these spaces are appropriately managed and meet the needs of the communities that they serve.
- To establish standards of good management.
- To promote and share good practice amongst the green space sector.
- To recognise and reward the hard work of managers, staff and volunteers.
Winning a Green Flag Award® brings with it a wealth of benefits, from the status of being affiliated with a prestigious awards programme through to tangible benefits such as boosting tourism and opening up revenue opportunities.
Each year, winners receive a Green Flag or Green Flag Community Award Flag. Those with Green Heritage Site Accreditation also receive a plaque to promote the status.
As the international standard for parks and green spaces, holding a Green Flag Award® brings with it a vast amount of prestige. It is also an excellent example of civic achievement and provides communities with a great sense of civic pride.
Winning a Green Flag Award® visibly demonstrates to the local community that a clear improvement has been made to a site.
Improving facilities at a park/green space and engaging more with the local community can have a knock on effect to the regeneration of an area.
Upgrading a site to achieve Green Flag status can, for example, bring about improvements to health and education, reduce crime and improve the general cleanliness of an area, whilst at the same time providing a boost to its profile.
Having a Green Flag Award® is an excellent lever for obtaining external funding through improvement grants and is a means of maximising revenue opportunities from within the site. An example of a national funding scheme to which winners can apply is the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Many of us have fantastic memories that started in a park - whether it’s flying a kite with our Granddads, time spent with friends, teaching our own children to walk, or a hundred other things - parks bring people together.
Surely the time has come for our government to recognise the value of these parks and start to work with the key drivers and personalities who have been standing up for the wonderful assets for over twenty years and finally put in place a viable maintenance funding system to help maintain these valuable assets.
CELEBRATING AMAZING SPACES
This publication, produced to celebrate 20 years of the award in 2016, contains a series of case studies from some of our amazing winners and demonstrates how the criteria can be applied across a wide range of public green spaces.
Read it here