Plans recognising the potential of Manchester's parks as crucial assets at the heart of their communities are being examined at a scrutiny meeting this week.
Manchester's emerging Parks Strategy will be designed with a focus on the needs of communities - and on how local people can become more involved.
It recognises that the city's 143 parks and open spaces make a huge contribution to the city's wider goal - from supporting regeneration and economic growth to encouraging healthier lifestyles and acting as community focal points, or even destinations in their own right.
The Parks Strategy will be based on a wide-ranging consultation to get the views of residents, existing parks friends’ groups, plus interested organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the RSPB.
It is proposed that the consultation will focus on four main themes - based around creating "world-class green spaces to meet, relax and play."
- Creating parks at the heart of neighbourhoods - Looking at how parks benefit local neighbourhoods and can help create places where people want to live.
- Recognising that active parks support healthy communities – Considering what each park is used for, how they can best serve local residents and how to ensure that everyone has access.
- Developing the Manchester Parks Standard – Considering the best way parks can be looked after and managed with the involvement of local residents.
- Establishing productive parks in partnership – Looking at how parks can better foster a sense of ownership and pride with local residents and groups, as well as how the Council can work better with partner organisations to generate income for re-investment back into parks.
A similar approach has already been undertaken at Heaton Park, which is beginning to reap dividends.
The Council is aiming to transform the 640-acre park, which already attracts 1.5 million visitors a year, from a good park to a great one, by improving its range of attractions, including its heritage buildings like Heaton Hall, enhancing its visitor offer with the introduction of a Tree Top Aerial Adventure and a broader programme of year-round events - and involving the community and other partner organisations in the park even more.
A number of volunteer groups have worked in partnership with the council to offer a variety of new activities, including The Tramway Society, the Manchester and District Beekeepers and the Friends of Heaton Hall. EAT Pennines, appointed to run Heaton Park’s two cafés, are an example of how parks can provide job opportunities - the company has created traineeships in hospitality and catering and also in horticulture.
Clean City funding - a one-off dividend from the council’s share of Manchester Airports Group associated with its purchase of Stansted - is providing £600,000 this year towards improvements to play areas in Heaton Park.
Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council's Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: "People use our many parks everyday to exercise, to walk their dogs, to play and simply to relax. Everybody loves Manchester's parks but there's always more we can do to make them better.
"The new parks strategy will seek to establish how we can improve the city’s green spaces and increase the involvement of the local community – after all, parks belong to the people of Manchester and so listening to their views is the best way to find out what can be changed for the better."
Proposals for the new Parks Strategy and a more detailed report about progress on the strategic plan for Heaton Park and Heaton Hall go before the Council’s Neighbourhood Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 23 February. Details of the consultation process will be announced in March.