Headlines: July 30th, 2003

Plans to reward imaginative schemes to transform parks and public spaces have been unveiled by the government. The Regeneration Minister, Yvette Cooper, said the project would see 89 million pounds being shared between 27 programmes across England to improve the state of parks and public spaces.Councils can express interest in the scheme through their regional government office. The successful programmes, which will be selected in the autumn, will be responsible for driving up current standards as well as focusing on new, well designed parks and public spaces. They must also ensure that management and maintenance of the parks continues in the future.

Plans could range from adventure play areas for children, youth shelters for teenagers, more park wardens or better lighting. Yvette Cooper highlighted Stoneleigh Park in Oldham as an example of what could be achieved. There the local council, a friends group and local residents worked together to turn a derelict space rife with drug users and abandoned vehicles into a safe green space with a children’s play area, a basketball court for teenagers and landscaped gardens for the whole community to enjoy.

Yvette Cooper said, “We have a great tradition of city parks, town squares and village greens. But for too long our public spaces have been neglected. People want parks and public spaces that are clean, safe and green.” She added, “Projects such as Stoneleigh Park have had a big impact on the local community. We want to see more innovative new approaches like these across the country.”

The new scheme will allow three councils from each region to receive funding. It has been announced as part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Sustainable Communities Plan which has already seen the creation of a new unit to champion parks and green spaces. Thirty million pounds has also been awarded to Groundwork, for the Living Spaces community project scheme which awards grants from a thousand to a hundred thousand pounds to groups which want to sort out their open spaces.