Frequently asked questions
How has the model been developed?
The model has been developed through partnership between the National Trust, Social Finance and Shared Assets. We have worked closely with local authorities, and with expert contributions from Britain Thinks and Vivid Economics.
Do any experts endorse the model?
The model has been developed in partnership with experts Social Finance and Shared Assets. The toolkit has been endorsed by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and author of HLF’s State of UK Public Parks 2016, Peter Neal.
Have you proved your solution works?
The model itself is neither new nor unique to parks. There are several examples where it has proved successful, such as Milton Keynes Parks Trust, where a charitable trust model with endowment is in operation. However, this is the first time it has been developed with an intent to scale up beyond a specific local example, and to 'retro-fit' it onto an existing portfolio of sites across an entire city. Putting a Parks Trust into practice for a whole city is more challenging. Raising an endowment at a time of financial pressure is a big ask, and moving parks to a charity is also an important decision. At the moment we believe the model works in principle and has significant advantages and fewer disadvantages than the alternatives, but we are still in the process of 'proving' it in practice.
How can we have confidence that your solution is the right one?
The model is based on informed assumptions, but local circumstances mean this is not a one-size fits all approach. As part of our investigations, we studied a number of models for the funding and management of parks. We feel that the Parks Trust model we have developed best meets the principles we set out as part of our vision, such as ensuring equitable access, securing dedicated and sustainable funding, and maximising social, environmental and economic benefits.
How can you guarantee that parks will be protected?
As part of the Parks Trust model, checks would be put in place to ensure that risk is managed appropriately for example, terms of a lease. These would include good governance and charitable terms. An endowment has the potential to give the long-term sustainable funding to help safeguard the future of parks.
What are the main benefits of having a Parks Trust?
A Parks Trust means parks delivering more benefits to more people, including equitable access, health and wellbeing. It means parks providing the highest ecological benefits while being financially secure. A Parks Trust would be able to attract new investment and create more opportunities for people and organisations to contribute and participate.
How will you make sure the public still own parks and have a say in how they are run?
It’s important to remember that at the moment councils have no legal duty to provide or look after parks and green spaces. However, there are both constitutional and practical arrangements that would ensure the public are ‘served’ by the new Trust. The charity’s objectives would include requirements to provide benefit to the public through their management of the parks, that is their reason for existing. This requirement would also form part of the lease agreement between the local authority and the new charity. The new charity could have local authority members on the Board, and may wish to establish new and modern means of tapping into the public’s views about parks. Furthermore, as a charity reliant in part on fundraising, a Parks Trust would have an incentive to build a good reputation with the people of the city.
Will parks be privatised as a result?
No. Under a Parks Trust, parks would be managed by a charity established with the dedicated purpose of looking after a city’s parks for the public. Any, and all, profit generated by the charity and its trading subsidiaries would be reinvested in park or used to support Park Trust operations.
Could this model apply to a town as well as a city?
We've developed the model based on a 'test bed' city. However, there is no reason why it couldn't be applied successfully to a town, albeit this will make some elements more difficult and others easier.
What difference would people see? How will it affect park users?
Under a Parks Trust, park users might see better parks with more opportunities for them to get involved. For example, through volunteering and 'Friends' groups or via governance arrangements.
Where will an endowment come from? How much is needed?
The size of the endowment required depends on the size and nature of a city’s parks asset base and on the additional complementary funding opportunities in that city. It is likely to be a substantial amount, but the growth of an endowment could be phased over time.