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City Council’s Cabinet decision moves Newcastle’s Parks Charitable Trust a step closer

On Monday evening [17 July] the City Council’s Cabinet were presented with a report outlining the possibility of Newcastle’s parks and allotments being transferred to a new Parks Charitable Trust, set up specifically for Newcastle.

​Cabinet gave their permission for the Council’s parks transformation team to continue working up detailed proposals for a final decision in October 2017. This allows the team further time to scrutinise the financial and operational aspects of the plan.

​Earlier this year the council held a comprehensive public consultation and engagement programme that successfully received 4,300 responses online, by post and face-to-face. The proposal is responsive to the views of the public and stakeholders as well as the objectives of the council.

​The initiative is an innovative response to a crushing 90% reduction in the council’s parks budget as a result of massive and prolonged Government cuts.

​Newcastle City Council are one of the first councils in the country to consider exploring the idea of transferring its parks to a charitable trust.  The sole focus would be to provide quality parks for the people of Newcastle. If approved in October, the proposal could attract fresh investment for the city’s parks, recreation grounds and allotments.

​The work is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust, who would like to explore options for positive long-term solutions for the funding and management of parks and green spaces.

​The project has also worked with Open Lab, part of Newcastle University, to deliver a programme of outreach workshops and online Twitter hours.

​Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities, Cllr Kim McGuinness, said:
​“I’m delighted the City Council’s Cabinet have enabled the parks charitable trust proposal to move onto the next vital stage. This gives us time to plan in more detail how the Charity could work, what the finances would look like and what it would be responsible for. Feedback from the public consultation and engagement will be central to helping to shape and map out the final format of the new organisation.

​“It’s important to reinforce that the Council will still have an essential role to play in the vision for the city’s parks, as they’ll still retain ownership of the land. We will not turn our backs on our parks, and under this proposal we’d maintain a seat on the board – should the charity come to fruition.

​“An ongoing pattern of central government imposed austerity means we must act now. We cannot sit still and the status quo is no longer sustainable. It is our role to preserve and protect our parks for the long term so they can continue to be enjoyed across the city. This is not about a short term solution.  This is about securing the long term protection for our parks.

​“We are looking to build something new, trailblazing and fit for purpose – devised especially for Newcastle.  A solution only for here. Newcastle is a Great Northern City, and we shouldn’t be afraid to lead the way and deliver a national first.”

​Harry Bowell, National Trust Director for the North said:
​“The National Trust is delighted that Newcastle City Council has taken the decision to further explore the potential for this innovative and exciting project. Parks play a huge role in keeping people physically and mentally healthy, and aid social cohesion.”

​“Our charitable purpose is to look after special places for the benefit of people and nature, and we are very pleased to be able to work with the council as they look to find the best solution for the long term management of their parks.”

​If members of the public or interested groups would like to learn more about the Parks Charitable Trust project, then five feedback events have been set up between 18-25 July. Here are the dates, locations and times.

​18 July / Central Civic Centre, Armstrong Stephenson Room / 7pm – 8pm
​20 July / Gosforth Trinity Church (Ouseburn Space) / 7pm – 8pm
​22 July / Jesmond Dene Visitors Centre / 12pm – 1pm
​24 July / West Nunsmoor Centre / 7.30pm – 8.30pm
​25 July / East Pottery Bank Community Centre / 6.30pm – 7.30pm

​A report will be presented to Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet in October where a final decision will be made about whether to transfer the city’s parks and allotments into a parks charitable trust.

​If the proposal is approved then the Charitable Trust could be in place by the spring of 2018.  The Trust would have an openly recruited board to lead and govern the new Charity.

​For further information about the work of Newcastle City Council please visit www.newcastle.gov.uk. You can also follow the City Council on social media via @NewcastleCityCouncil (Face Book) and @NewcastleCC (Twitter).

​Also to learn about the work of the Heritage Lottery Fund please visit www.hlf.org.uk and for the National Trust please click www.nationaltrust.org.uk

By Emily