Major Project Research – Parks

I’m looking to the issue of park funding, reduction in funding and the condition this leaves parks in. This is not just a local issue, it is something that is effecting parks all across the UK.

“…the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) study warns a decline in the condition of parks predicted in a first report in 2014 is set to continue, with almost all park managers experiencing ongoing cuts as austerity squeezes local authority budgets.

Some 92% of park managers had seen budgets cut and 95% were facing more reductions, a worsening of the situation since 2014, according to a survey of 193 councils as part of the report.”

– https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/07/uks-public-parks-face-decline-and-neglect-heritage-lottery-fund-report

However, it has been reported that councils in the East Midlands and North of England are suffering deeper budget cuts and thus park services are more likely to be affected in those areas.

Sheffield has recently received decided to buck the trend and invest money in local parks. The first to receive funding is Norfolk Park. However, my nearest Colley Park has yet to receive any improvements other than the removal of old outdoor Gym equipment. Currently Colley Park has no play facilities (as in swings, climbing frames, etc) as they were removed many years ago.

I contacted the Park and Countryside department about Colley Park in 2015.

From: Ayshea Siddall
Sent: 20 February 2015 18:28
To: parksandcountryside
Subject: Colley Park

Hi,

I moved to Parson Cross last year, I had not been to Colley Park since I was a child. Your website mentions play areas for toddlers and older children – your website needs updating as I found out the first time I visited the park with my toddler and baby. Very disappointing, it is such a shame that there is not a nice park within walking distance of my home.

I think the website should be updated to remove details about the play areas, the park is really only somewhere to walk a dog at best – not really a park at all.

Do you have any plans to do up the park? If not I think there should be, especially with all the new homes being built nearby.

Ayshea.

This was the response I received;

Hi Ayshea,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding Colley Park.

Some years ago Colley park had a major investment programme to improve the play areas in the park but these have suffered repeated vandalism, unfortunately the cuts the council have received over the last few years means there has been a major reduction to the parks budget therefore we have not been able to invest in replacing or upgrading the park we have just had to concentrate on health and safety issues.  I will get the web site changed so it does not mislead people as to what facilities are in the park.

However the new housing development do have to provide new facilities for the community I believe there are plans to put in new play areas but within the new housing areas, this could change and they may wish to invest in the park, at this stage this is all the information we have.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to clarify anything relating to this matter.

Regards Darryl.

Darryl Dawson
Area Officer – City Wide Services

Parks and Public Realm
Clay Wheels Lane Depot, S6 1LZ
Tel: 01142 2500 500

Since then a survey was given out to local residents about both Parson Cross and Colley Park. https://sheffield.citizenspace.com/place-planning-1/colley-park-survey-2017/

What funding is currently available?

Colley Park Improvements Funding – We have one pot of funding to do some general park improvements. The S106 legal agreement for this funding requires us to carry out some improvements to Colley Park including: removal of old playground and gym equipment; re-profiling of mound to improve site linesdrainage improvements and tree planting. These improvements are included in the options plans. We would also like to hear what other improvements you think are important for the site.

Play Facilities Funding – We have a second pot of funding, which is allocated to ‘play facilities in the catchment of the development site’, which means it should be spent in open space within 400m of the housing development. The option plans show a range of ideas which this funding could be spent on including: skate and bike park or skate bowl; climbing boulders, tarmac bike track and robust playground equipment. We would like to hear whether you think we should be investing this play money at Colley Park and what you think of these ideas.

I don’t want to sound sceptical but is says within a 400 metre radius of the housing development. It would not surprise me if they sold at least some of Colley Park off to developers. At the moment the Gleeson development is being built around the Park, but there are old football fields plus other flat areas which could be used. Plus as part of the new housing development Gleeson had to agree to build new football pitches, which leaves the old ones redundant. Would I sacrifice some of the Park to leave a smaller but well equipped park? Well as it stands yes but only if we get a decent park out of it.

I have found the S106 agreement on the Council’s planning portal, https://planningapps.sheffield.gov.uk/online-applications/files/29E84A9F3A5562B905871EFE948D6E16/pdf/11_02168_FUL-S106_DOCUMENT-867678.pdf. Which mentions £218, 715 to be given by Gleeson to the council for play facilities within the aforementioned 400 m catchment area and £100, 000 to general park improvements to Colley Park – improving drainage, removing old play equipment and new paths amongst other improvements but no mention of new play equipment at the Park itself.

Another Park not far from me, Wolfe Road Park, recently received funding to do up the Park. A Facebook group was created by Tessa Lupton and she met with members of the Parks and Countryside department and they agreed to fund new play equipment at the Park: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1396176400437206/

Some Parks receive funding because individuals set up groups to develop facilities at their local park as with Millhouses Park. https://friendsofmillhousespark.org

Their aims are to

“Provide facilities in Millhouses Park in the interests of social welfare, recreation and leisure time for the community of Millhouses and for the citizens of Sheffield and to improve the conditions and quality of life of those people who use the park, without discrimination or exclusion by sex, race, ability or age.

Increase the enjoyment, relaxation and health of all those who use the facilities and to encourage greater use of the park as a public amenity.

Stimulate the educational, physical, creative, imaginative, social and cognitive development of children and young people across a range of ages and abilities.

Minimise the risk of accident, hazard or infection to users of the park.”

Some research has been done in to the effectiveness of schemes which provide alternative funding to parks, https://www.nesta.org.uk/news/rethinking-how-parks-are-funded

“While there is no one ‘silver bullet’ for replacing local authority funding, some promising new models emerged during the programme:

Burnley Go to the Park project involved moving from a culture of “controlling nature” to one of “working with nature”, turning some areas of parks over to meadows and planting some traditional beds with perennials rather than annuals.  This has created savings of nearly £70,000 since its launch and is forecast to save the council £119,000 per year (10 per cent of their parks budget) by 2020.

Bournemouth Parks Foundation has proved that people are willing to donate to public parks, including via text, projecting a donation stream of £46,000 a year by 2020/21.

The Heeley People’s Park subscription scheme has shown people will donate on an ongoing basis to their local park, demonstrating it is not just flagship parks that can tap into people’s willingness to give.

The Bristol ParkWork project worked with volunteers and saw 40 per cent of participants transitioning into employment and training, while delivering £27,000 worth of improvements to parks across the city.”

I have emailed Sheffield Council again and await a response as to what is happening with Colley Park.

Hi,

I’m just wondering if there are any updates on what is happening with Colley Park?

I went to an event during the Summer holidays at Mount Tabor and filled a survey in about Colley and Parson Cross Park.

The last I heard was that there was something basic ground work to be done at Colley and I noticed, on my recent visit, that the Gym equipment had been removed. Do you have any further information about what the next stages are, if there are any, with the park?

Yours,

Ayshea.

Other Links:

https://www.facebook.com/sheffieldparks/

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/09/the-end-of-park-life-as-we-know-it-the-battle-for-britains-green-spaces-rowan-moore

UPDATE

Received an email about Colley Park.

“Hi Ayshea

I have been forwarded your email below. Apologies I have not replied sooner, I have only just returned from annual leave.  We carried out consultation during August and September and had a good response from people locally, both at events and via the online survey.  We have collated all the consultation results and we are currently in the process of feeding back these results and recommendations to local councillors for agreement before we feedback formally to those involved in the consultation.

I can tell you that from the overall results, there was clear support for developing new play facilities on the site with a majority of people feeling we should invest the play facilities funding in Colley Park. New play equipment also came top of the votes for what would encourage people to use the site more, closely followed by security measures such as CCTV so there is clear support from local people for both play and CCTV.

We plan to progress some general improvements which would include security measures such as CCTV and removal of old and damaged equipment a ‘Phase 1. The Gym equipment was removed earlier as it had been causing some significant antisocial and noise issues for residents living nearby and was also in a poor state of repair. We anticipate the rest of Phase 1 would take place in the Spring.

As the consultation results give a clear mandate for the investment of the play funding on this site as well as security measures, if local councillors are in agreement, we will then look at developing more detailed designs for this play facilities as a ‘Phase 2’ in consultation with local people. At this stage, it is likely that we would develop an area for younger children including play equipment and a small tarmac bike track and an area for older children including climbing equipment, which was voted highest in the schools consultation. We will ensure the siting of these is a suitable distance from properties on the site boundary to minimise any disturbance in the future.

Once we have agreement from the local councillors that they are happy with the proposals, I will be forwarding out a formal consultation report and proposals to all those involved in the consultation. I will ensure one is emailed to you at this email address.

If you have any further questions, please let me know

Kind Regards

Kate Clark
Project Officer”

Not date sadly on when on Phase 2 will happen. However, it has got me thinking more about the reporting of Vandalism/damage, etc in Parks. I’m thinking along the lines of maybe an App, perhaps aimed at children as well as parents that will use the GPS to locate where you are and will automatically email the council once you upload a photo taken on your phone. It could store the photo and location and send it later if it loses a signal or has no data, etc.

Also thinking about if there is more ways to get children involved in parks, like community events, mural painting/art, Gardening groups for children, so they can feel a sense of pride in their Park because they have contributed to it.

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