Bournemouth Parks Foundation, partnering with BCP Council, is one of nine organisations across the UK who have been selected for the Future Parks Accelerator fund from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Trust and MHCLG to find new, inspiring ways to develop and manage our greenspaces.
The project will help to develop a new open space – or green infrastructure – strategy for the area, something that will influence development positively for people and nature. Alongside this, a business plan will be created that will set out how this partnership can enhance its parks, nature reserves and open spaces for future generations.
The partnership has been selected for its innovative approach to parks and open spaces, with the project looking to widen the charitable partnership to help bring more funds to parks across the area; improve the systems it uses to manage and recognise volunteers who give their time to help its parks; trial different approaches to make its parks health and wellbeing centres of the future; test a landscape scale approach to managing the spaces along the Stour Valley corridor; and ensure that its green spaces offer opportunities for all ages and abilities.
Three ‘Pilot Parks’ have been selected across the conurbation with the intention to trial health initiatives and develop new ideas with the community to make physical and management improvements to the spaces, making them much more relevant to the community that live around them. The parks chosen are Watermans Park in Somerford, Winton Recreation Ground and Alexandra Park in Parkstone. The project hopes to develop inspiring ways of improving the parks – such as re-wilding, upgrading or opening a café or improving access - while ensuring the local community are engaged in the process.
We'll work with partners at Environmental Finance and Vivid Economics to look at innovative finance models for parks and recognising the true value of our open spaces.
Green infrastructure strategy
We're creating a 25-year parks and open spaces, or green infrastructure, strategy and business plan to create a sustainable model for 21st century parks.
This plan will influence the new Local Plan, the South East Dorset Green Infrastructure Plan and dovetail with the Government’s 25-year environmental plan. The new unitary authority will deliver a service to c.450,000 people, working across parks and nature reserves, covering over 2,500 hectares of land.
To date we've been auditing our parks and open spaces across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to know exactly what's in our parks- this is approximately 300 spaces so it's keeping us busy! We're also out to tender for our Green Infrastructure strategy consultant and will look to start this element of the project in autumn 2020.
Trading and commercial opportunities
We have lots of opportunities across our parks and open spaces to generate income which can be put back into our parks to keep them looking great.
We'll evaluate our current commercial activities and explore various delivery models. Our ambition is that the Park Cafés become the café destination of choice, and that some of the money you spend goes directly towards maintaining the park. There will be room for social enterprises, such as volunteer-led cafes. Initiatives such as these not only generate vital revenue, but also nurture the formation of community hubs in our parks.
We're working with Acorn Tourism on this piece of work during autumn 2020 and are hoping to have some new plans we can start to embed throughout 2021.
Stour Valley Park
We want to create an ambitious plan to provide public access, environmental, economic and health benefits through the Stour Valley: from Christchurch Harbour to Kingston Lacey along the 22km stretch of river.
This will test a landscape scale approach to managing the spaces along the Stour Valley corridor – bringing landowners, user groups and professionals together to enhance the area for nature, visitors and the local economy. This will include researching habitat evaluation, biodiversity improvements, water management, pollution and flood alleviation along the river.
Funding through the FPA has given this project a real boost, bringing in Landstory Design Ltd who are co-ordinating engagement with partners, communications and direction with governance. Their brief is to develop a strategy that tells us how to make the park a reality over the next few years. More detail can be found on the Dorset Local Nature Partnership website.
We'll develop a new volunteering programme for all parks and green spaces opportunities that will engage and improve people’s health and wellbeing, reduce social isolation, increase skills and connect communities.
This will be achieved by reviewing volunteering and its management and developing a scheme that increases volunteer numbers, ensuring we recognise and reward individuals, exploring options for a ‘Parks Forum’, and creating a volunteer database which accurately records information and enables better communication.
We are working with Resources 4 Change who are well underway consulting with various stakeholders and we are expecting some conclusions to direct us on a way forward by the end of the summer. We'll then look to start embedding the new strategy from 2021 and implement an IT solution to make it really easy to find out about volunteering activities and to book onto sessions across the conurbation.
Three ‘Pilot Parks’ have been selected across the conurbation with the intention to trial health initiatives and develop new ideas with the community to make physical and managerial improvements to the spaces. The selected parks are Waterman’s Park in Christchurch, Winton Recreation Ground in Bournemouth and Alexandra Park in Poole. The project hopes to develop inspiring ways of improving the parks – such as re-wilding, upgrading or opening a café and improving access.
We have begun work envisaging master planning these spaces and have begun some community engagement in these parks. We will also be recruiting a Park Activator in autumn 2020 who will look to bring these parks to life through various activities.
As the first Parks Foundation in the UK we're regarded as a national innovator within the parks sector. We'll look to evolve and grow the Foundation to consider options for the model to operate across Christchurch and Poole while also raising it's profile.
Through expanding our fundraising and trading activities we'll ensure the financial sustainability of the Foundation which will in turn ensure our parks are kept looking amazing for generations to come.
To-date, we've held virtual engagement events with Councillors and BCP Council staff members, and will be engaging with community groups throughout the autumn to gather additional thoughts and ideas about our growth.