• Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

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Parks Trust set to take another step forward

A ground-breaking initiative that could see Newcastle’s parks run by a Charitable Trust is set to take the next step forward.

A report outlining how the Trust could be funded is set to be considered by the city council’s Cabinet on Monday July 17.

It also sets out the results of a major public engagement programme and asks councillors for permission to work up final proposals for a Trust for approval in October.

Newcastle City Council would be one of the first councils in the country to transfer its parks to a charitable trust, whose sole focus would be providing quality parks for the people of Newcastle – if the ambitious plans are approved. The initiative is an innovative response to a crushing 90% reduction in the council’s parks budget as a result of massive Government cuts.

If approved, the proposal could attract fresh investment for the city’s 33 parks, 21 recreation sites and hundreds of allotments sites. It would also safeguard jobs and strengthen the role parks play in encouraging healthy lifestyles.

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

Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities, Cllr Kim McGuinness, said: “This proposal is about securing a positive future for our parks and green spaces, and greater community involvement in their future.

“Although the parks and allotments would be transferred into a Trust, we can reassure people that the Council wouldn’t be walking away or selling off the city’s parks as they would still be in public ownership.

“We are the first local authority to attempt this approach. The support, guidance and advice from the Heritage Lottery Fund, National Trust and Social Finance shows how highly regarded this project has become.”

The report estimates that £9.7m would be needed to set up a fund that would be used to maintain the parks for 10 years. This would give a Trust time to raise enough money in order to become self-financing. It would save the council an estimated £110m assuming a 125-year lease agreement with the Trust.

Cllr McGuinness added: “The report provides a positive picture of what we know so far, and that a Charitable Trust model is a viable way forward.”

If Cabinet approves the report, officers will be asked to work on the next stage of the project, namely financial testing of the model and an implementation plan leading up to Cabinet’s final approval for the setting up of a Trust in October. Officers would also continue to involve and listen to the views of residents and community groups across the city as the plan develops.

The report also states that a campaign to engage with the public over the idea of a Trust was a significant success attracting over 4,300 responses from people of all ages.

The Newcastle Parks consultation also worked with Open Lab part of Newcastle University to deliver a programme of outreach workshops and online Twitter hours

By Emily