Green open spaces are a critical part of our towns and cities, providing places for recreation and relaxation, homes for nature, and essential ecosystem services.


It's not surprising, then, that parks are so important to so many people. In fact, a recent report by Natural England found that visits to city parks and green spaces in England were up by 25 per cent in 2016 as compared to 2010. Increasing evidence also shows that living close to nature and spending time outside is good for you - highlighting the potential value of urban green spaces to our health and wellbeing.


However, in recent years the long-standing guardians of parks, local authorities, have seen major changes in the way their funding works, putting parks at risk of loss or degradation. In its State of UK Public Parks 2016 report, the Heritage Lottery Fund found that 92 per cent of park managers across the UK have been subject to reduced budgets over the previous three years, and this trend is expected to continue in future years.


In the context of increasingly squeezed resources, especially for non-statutory services like parks, a collaborative approach is needed from the public, private and voluntary sectors to secure the sustainable future of the green, open spaces upon which so many of us rely.


This toolkit is designed to support local authorities and communities interested in parks transformation. It shares the wealth of insight and advice that gathered by the National Trust over the past four years, through Nesta's Rethinking Parks programme, which allowed us to explore the potential of a charitable Parks Trust model to sustainably finance and manage parks; and through our partnership with Newcastle City Council as they explore alternative funding and management solutions for parks. 


The toolkit highlights the key stages that we understand a local authority will need to go through, and suggests the key considerations and learning at each stage in the journey.


The toolkit has been endorsed by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and author of HLF’s State of UK Public Parks 2016, Peter Neal.


"With over 20 years' experience of investing money raised through the National Lottery, HLF realises the urgent need to identify and explore sustainable new approaches to funding and managing the UK’s public parks. We are delighted to see this toolkit being made available to all and look forward to seeing how it can be used to help protect ours, and others', past investments in the UK’s parks and green spaces" - HLF.


"The State of UK Public Parks 2016 report highlights that a growing number of local authorities are now exploring alternative management models for their parks and green spaces. Parks Trusts and Endowments offer important options to consider and this toolkit provides a useful set of resources to inform this process" - Peter Neal.


The toolkit is designed to follow the parks transformation journey - from setting up a project team to implementation. We've produced this toolkit in the spirit of sharing learning, and it is a snapshot of our learning to date. It will continue to evolve as our work develops. 


You can find out more about the partnership behind the toolkit in About us. If you have any feedback on the toolkit, don't hesitate to get in touch with us via the Contact page. Your responses will help us shape future content on this site.