Fields in Trust Marketing & Communications Manager Richard McKeever gives his top ten tips for protecting and promoting outdoor spaces for sports and leisure:
- Get involved! The best way to protect recreational open space is to ensure it is used and loved. The more parks and local playing fields are enjoyed – whether for formal sport, festivals or relaxation - the more valued they are by local residents.
- Understand your sites: Know who owns local recreational spaces. Find out who uses them and why. Consider a Green Space Audit to assess local recreational sites and investigate the quality, quantity, accessibility and value. Talk to local residents, friend of parks groups, sports clubs, play associations, school governors, council officials, environmental and conservation groups who enjoy the open spaces in all their different ways.
- Assess local need: Ensure all policies affecting outdoor space are consistent. Look particularly for policies on: Open space; Sport; Recreational land; Play space; Green Belt or other forms of protected green networks; Metropolitan Open Land (in Greater London). Explore potential conflicts with the local plan. Review other local priorities, for example if there is a child obesity initiative, consider where young people could play and exercise if their local park was lost.
- Guidance: Check that the amount of outdoor playing space in your area meets the recommendations of Fields in Trust’s Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play (formerly The Six Acre Standard).
- Keep watch: Don't ignore news about proposed developments. At a time when there is pressure on space for new residential and commercial property, parks and playing fields are being considered for development. Your favourite outdoor spaces might be suitable for listing as Assets of Community Value a simple procedure which provides some limited protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.
- Protect your site: Fields in Trust has been legally safeguarding playing fields, playgrounds, recreation grounds and other open spaces since its formation as the National Playing Fields Association in 1925. Land is protected through a robust yet flexible Deed of Dedication. The Deeds (or Minutes of Agreement in Scotland) are a legally binding agreement with the landowner, protecting the site for future generations to enjoy. Currently Fields in Trust protect around 2,600 UK sites, a total of 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres), including 471 King George V Fields and 1,358 Queen Elizabeth II Fields. Put in your postcode into our field finder to see if your favourite local park is safeguarded forever.
- Celebrate: Fields in Trust's community engagement programme Have a Field Day supports local organisers and provides a box of materials to help successful celebrations on protected recreational spaces. In 2015, 361 events saw a total of 70,000 people getting involved with community activity. Bringing neighbours together to enjoy their green spaces can have a positive impact on a community. These events are eligible to apply for Fields in Trust's annual Awards, celebrating achievements of partners who ensure community access to protected outdoor recreational space. Last year the first public vote for UK's Best Park saw Telford Town Park in Shropshire top the poll of 122 nominated UK sites in a close fought contest with 10,000 votes cast overall.
- Finance and funding: It is important to ensure that sites are well maintained and equipped so they don’t fall into disrepair and disuse. Funding is available from many sources for the upkeep of recreational space – from Groundwork’s Bags of Help scheme distributing money raised from the 5p bag charge in Tesco stores for small projects, through to larger capital awards. Over the last five years Fields in Trust has accessed over £3 million of funding to help improve protected sites. Sign up for our monthly ezine and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news and funding alerts, or join the Friends of Fields in Trust and take advantage of discounts on play equipment.
- Communicate: Tell everyone what you are doing, invite local people to public meetings and events and work with Friends of Parks group. Tell your local media what is happening in the park to gain community support. Keep your Member of Parliament, MSPs or AMs informed. Set up a Facebook page and Twitter account and encourage people to join. Posters in local shops and offices help spread the word about seasonal community events in your green spaces.
- Commemorate: History is an important aspect of placemaking. Investigate your local history and mark significant anniversaries; for example Fields in Trust's Centenary Fields programme, in partnership with The Royal British Legion, poppyscotland and Legion Scotland, is protecting playing fields, parks and gardens with a connection to World War I, as a living legacy for those who served, or lost their lives in conflict.
Richard McKeever is Fields in Trust's Marketing & Communications Manager. He can be contacted by any of the below means.
t: 020 7427 2117
m: 07940 072 832
Richard McKeever is Fields in Trust's Marketing & Communications Manager. He joined the organisation in 2015. He has worked in charity communications and policy development and has a background in supporting community groups to share their stories in print and online.
- This article was originally published in LCR - the magazine of the National Association of Local Councils