Parks project scoops top national award

An innovative new approach to managing Burnley's parks and open areas has won a national award.

Friday, 8th July 2016, 7:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:26 pm

The Rethinking Burnley’s Parks project has been named the Best Urban Park Initiative in the Horticultural Week Custodian Awards.

The scheme takes a more environmentally-friendly approach to managing the borough’s parks and green spaces.

Burnley Council staff were at Chelsea Physic Gardens, the oldest botanic gardens in London, to pick up the award.

Coun. Bea Foster, the council’s Executive member for leisure and culture, said: “Burnley’s parks are a wonderful asset and something we are all be proud of.

“They provide a place to enjoy the quiet, take part in sports and other activities, spend time with your children and friends.

“We need to make sure we look after our parks, not just for our generation but for generations to come, and that means we have to be more imaginative in the way we properly manage them.

“This award reflects the fact that the council is taking its responsibilities to the future maintenance and management of our parks seriously and in an innovative way that I’m sure others will follow.

“I’d like to thank our parks staff and the park friends groups and Offshoots permaculture project for all their efforts and support. This award is as much about them and their hard work.”

Burnley Council manages 550 hectares of green spaces with an ever decreasing budget.

It achieves a satisfaction rating of 85% (according to the most recent Citizens’ Panel survey) and the challenge is to continue to maintain these high levels of satisfaction while making further significant savings.

Simon Goff, the council’s head of greenspaces and amenities, said: “Contact with nature and opportunities to see wildlife is what the public most appreciate about our parks.

“A more ecological approach to greenspace management, including in our heritage parks, offers opportunities to increase wildlife and biodiversity and create more interesting parks while saving money and engaging with the community.”

Burnley’s scheme was one of just 11 projects nationwide to secure a grant from the Rethinking Parks Programme, run in partnership between the Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and innovation charity Nesta, to pilot and develop the council’s ideas.

Working closely with Offshoots permaculture project (managed by Newground), park Friends groups, and greenspaces staff, the council developed and delivered in four areas of innovation.

• A Volunteer in Parks programme to recruit, train and manage volunteers;

• Extending meadow management regimes to parks to allow certain areas to grow “wild” and create natural environment to encourage meadow biodiversity. Tyhe council also introduced the world’s first urban bee cages, allowing the public to safely see and experience bees which forage in our meadows;

• Replacing costly annual bedding schemes with herbaceous perennial planting in heritage parks;

• Managing areas of park woodlands using council staff and volunteers to thin these woodlands to produce wood fuel and woodchip for playgrounds generating revenue and savings of around £15,000 per year.