As Kate Lowe, editor of Horticulture Week, states in her editorial this week (4th Sept), many local authorities use contractors in the delivery of parks and green space management and maintenance activities on the ground. But we know very little about what impact that is having on our parks, on budgets, and on day-to-day practice. A new project that Mel Burton and I are doing at the University of Sheffield aims to find out more, given the lack of research in this area.

We are sending out online questionnaires to every Local Authority in the UK to find out how the management and maintenance of parks and green space in cities has changed in the context of austerity. The survey has just been rolled out nationally on 7th September, when every Local Authority in the UK will have an opportunity to share their experiences.

We have teamed up with Aalborg University in Denmark, to compare the situation in the UK with that in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. We hope that this research will shed light on how Local Authorities have adapted their services over time to cope with reduced funding. The survey will provide a national overview of what practices are and are not working as well as recording the drivers for different arrangements, issues and barriers to change.

In light of austerity in UK and beyond, this is a timely piece of research which will provide a national audit to help us see what is working successfully and how practices are changing green space management. We hope to highlight innovations as well as barriers which may help decision-makers faced with revenue budgets of an average of 20% since 2010 (according to a recent HLF report). Parks management is at a crossroads and we hope this research will help local authorities benchmark their provision and provide valuable insights into current and changing practices.

We will be analysing the local authority responses this winter and will be presenting findings early next year, so watch this space! 

AuthorNicola Dempsey