News

Knowsley Council to sell 10% of parks and green spaces

Knowsley Council has formally accepted the recommendations of an independent review into the future management and funding of its parks and green spaces.

The recommendation, put forward by the Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board, was unanimously agreed on Tuesday, 28 November by the Council’s Cabinet. It will protect forever 90% of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces, through the surrender of 10% of the borough’s parks and green spaces for new development over the next 15 years.

The income received will create a £40 million endowment which will be held in and managed by a newly created charitable Trust. The interest generated from this endowment will then be used by the Trust, to fund the future maintenance and care of the remaining 90% of Knowsley’s parks, forever.

As a result of continuing cuts by Government, Knowsley Council’s funding for parks and green spaces will stop in March 2019. This new model will see the council’s funding replaced by the interest generated from the endowment fund. This will be protected from any future council budget cuts and therefore will safeguard the future of the borough’s parks forever.

At the meeting, the Cabinet also agreed a resolution to ensure all 18 of Knowsley’s Green Flag parks are protected from any new development whilst retaining their national standard status -  with the exception of part of Court Hey Park which is currently subject to a separate tender exercise relating to the future of the former National Wildflower Centre. It also published a list of the 17 parkland areas it now plans to surrender over the next 15 years.

These are:
•    Alt Park (part of)
•    Broad Lane Playing Fields
•    Copthorne (adjacent community centre not included)
•    Court Hey Park (part of – pending separate tender exercise relating to the future of former   National Wildflower Centre)
•    Cowper Way
•    Field Lane
•    Finch Wood
•    Frederick Lunt Playing Fields
•    Grace Park
•    Halewood Doorstep Green (part of)
•    King George V Playing Fields, Prescot
•    Pool Hey Playing Fields
•    Roby Playing Fields (adjacent community centre not included)
•    St John’s Millennium Green
•    Spring Wood
•    Syders Grove (part of)
•    Westview

The remaining 144 sites across the borough will be protected for public use forever, as a result of this action.

Cllr Andy Moorhead Leader of Knowsley Council said: “This council has had £86m ripped from our budget by central Government since 2010 which means we simply cannot afford to maintain and manage our parks in the way we have done previously. This new community based Trust model safeguards the future of our parks and green spaces for generations to come. If we don’t act now we will see a return to the 70s and 80s with the gradual deterioration of these wonderful community assets.

“This council will not tolerate such a prospect and we therefore accept the findings of the Parks and Green Spaces Review Board and its recommendation to create a charitable trust to run our parks from April 2019.

He added: “During the consultation, the message we heard loud and clear was that our residents and communities wanted certainty and were keen to know, quickly, which parks and green spaces would be considered for sale as part of new model. That’s why we have prioritised this work and using the criteria set out by the Board, feedback from the market research and public consultation, along with our own local understanding, have been able to identify the list of parkland areas for sale.”

Throughout August and September the Review Board conducted an extensive consultation speaking to residents, businesses, expert witnesses and other local areas that have embarked on similar projects with their parks and green spaces. Listening to this feedback and using the expertise and judgement of the board members they developed a robust criteria to support the council in selecting potential sites for sale.

Gideon Ben-Tovim OBE, Chair of the Board commented: “This has been a thorough and comprehensive consultation exercise and we are confident that our recommendations provide Knowsley with a credible solution that will protect the vast majority of the boroughs’ parks and green spaces for future generations.

“We know that this approach is working successfully in other parts of the country and I personally commend the council for taking a proactive and innovative approach to securing the future of its parks. I also think it is particularly refreshing that the council has prioritised this work to be able to identify and release the list of sites for sale so swiftly. This clearly recognises the public desire for certainty and shows how committed they are to progressing this important piece of work.”

Following agreement of these recommendations, the council will now progress with this work to establish a new trust, create the endowment and engage with the local Parish & Town Councils who lease some of the sites involved.

Cllr Moorhead said: “We understand that parks are much loved community resources and we hope that residents will recognise the only other option would be to allow these wonderful spaces to simply deteriorate as the government cuts continue.  We call on all our residents to embrace this new Trust and work to ensure the remaining 144 parks and green spaces – 90% of what we have now -  continue to be special places for ourselves and future generations to enjoy forever.”

More information can be found on the Knowsley Parks & Green Spaces Review Board website <http://knowsleyparksboard.co.uk/>  and on Knowsley News online. <http://knowsleynews.co.uk/parks-recommendations/>

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