Manchester consults on future of parks

Residents of Manchester are being surveyed on what they want for the city's parks over the next five to ten years, as the city council finalises its Parks Strategy.

The strategy ties into Manchester's Green and Blue Infrastructure plan, which sets out how high quality green and blue spaces will be a part of every neighbourhood by 2025.

The council explains: "We know parks matter. When we asked Manchester people about how their 'dream Manchester' would look in 2025, thousands pointed to the parks and said, 'We need these spaces to relax, exercise and step away from the busy city'.

"People want to live near parks. They make us healthier and happier. They keep us active and encourage walking and bike rides. They reduce carbon pollution. They can help make Manchester a top-flight world city for business and tourism."

But like all local authorities, Manchester City Council is facing financial pressures. Its new draft parks strategy offers "some new ideas and approaches" to care for the city's 143 parks and open spaces, including new ways of funding them. It draws on the latest thinking around parks, including the Rethinking Parks programme and HLF's State of UK Public Parks report from 2014.

Possible new funding models include "park improvement districts", endowment funds and living legacies, as well as council tax rebates for volunteers and cash-back schemes for communities that manage their own green spaces. It will also look at private sector investment and partnerships.

The council is also considering setting a "Manchester standard" that parks should achieve, and setting up a horticulture training programme for community groups, grounds maintenance teams and unemployed people.

The survey closes on 31 May.

Trial run at Heaton Park

The council says the new approach is already reaping dividends at Manchester's Heaton Park, which has benefited from Heritage Lottery Fund money. Attractions at the 260ha park are being improved, including heritage buildings like Heaton Hall. A Tree Top Aerial Adventure and a broader programme of year-round events have also been introduced.

Volunteer groups have worked in partnership with the council to offer new activities, including The Tramway Society, the Manchester and District Beekeepers and the Friends of Heaton Hall. EAT Pennines, appointed to run Heaton Park’s two cafés, has created traineeships in hospitality, catering and horticulture.

First published on www.hortweek.com, 30 March 2016, written by Elizabeth Henry