Headlines: August 31st, 2006



An Urban Park Development Ranger from Rotherham is today named as Britain’s Best Park Worker. Paul Spriggs wins the award for his inspiring work with young people. Meanwhile workers at Leicester City Council have been named the country’s best Parkforce.

The Parkforce Awards, celebrating the work being done by thousands of parks staff across Britain, were launched earlier in the year by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment to encourage councils to have dedicated staff in every significant urban park during daylight hours.

Paul has been recognised for his work at Rosehill Victoria Park in Rotherham, which has put the park back at the centre of its local community after a number of years of neglect. The judges felt he had achieved much in the two years he has been at the park, especially helping young people to learn about, enjoy and care for the park. He has started a Junior Ranger programme and an inspiring multi-agency initiative to tackle graffiti, criminal damage and nuisance vehicles, which has seen the virtual eradication of graffiti, vandalism and nuisance behaviour. The Gra-fix initiative Paul introduced in November 2004 offers a confidential helpline allowing children to report misuse and criminal behaviour in the park.

The judges also cited Paul’s Community Payback programme, under which offenders have transformed the park’s games pavilion and public toilets. At the same time a Park Active programme is encouraging families to use the park by providing free access to sports equipment.

Leicester’s Parkforce was judged to have had a significant impact on preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, with a 15 per cent reduction in the last 2 years alone, as well as a drop in arson attacks on the parks and a huge increase in park use. The judges were looking for the local authority that had made the most significant use of its parks staff in making parks cleaner and greener for people from the local community to enjoy. Leicester was praised for its comprehensive plan to reverse years of decline in the budgets and maintenance of the city’s parks service. The City Council was commended particularly for its understanding of how important good parks staff are to the general wellbeing of local communities.

Runner up in the awards was the park service in Leeds with teams in the London boroughs of Islington and Lewisham and Bury also being shortlisted.