Paying for Parks

Parks are currently benefiting from substantial capital spending but finding the money to meet year-to-year running costs remains a challenge Government agency CABE Space has published a thought-provoking report ...

A new government report highlights the ongoing issues parks face to find revenue funding.

CABE SpacePaying for Parks: Eight models for funding urban green spaces (CABE Space, October 2006) investigates the main ways of funding parks that are being used around the world and recommends funding models that could be applied in England.

With lottery money pouring into restoration projects, Paying for Parks highlights a reversal of three decades of decline and says that the quality of parks and other green spaces is at last improving instead of declining. The challenge now is to ensure the long-term sustainability of these improvements. This will require the identification of alternative sources of both revenue and capital funding.

Paying for Parks identifies eight financing models, but not all would be possible in England under current legislation. Parks have never been, and are not, a statutory requirement of local authorities; English local authorities also have limited autonomy from central government. Some of the funding mechanisms found abroad would need fiscal or legislative change to be introduced into the UK. The report makes clear that there is no single answer: 'one size fits all' is not an acceptable solution.

Paying for Parks is a significant call for a fresh thinking about how these amenities are resourced, and as such is a useful and worthwhile reference for parks and green space managers and regeneration professionals.

You can view the report as a 6-page briefing or view the full report at (opens in new window).

Eight Ways to Pay for your Park

Here is a summary of the eight models for funding urban green space that Paying for Parks identifies. The published report sets out the strengths and weaknesses of each options and highlights instances where the model is being applied.

1. Traditional local authority funding

In England, parks and green spaces managed by local authorities are usually funded from the general revenue budgets, financed from local taxation and/or government transfers.

Parks departments have to compete for money with other non-statutory spending. The decision about how general revenue budgets are distributed is made by councillors.

2. Multi-agency public sector funding

In England, money is available from a range of government departments and agencies for projects that meet crossover targets, for instance targets for public health, young people, crime or sustainable development. Urban green spaces may receive money in this context.

3. Taxation initiatives

In many countries levies on property, or tax credits, can be ring-fenced to fund the management and provision of urban green space. However, English local authorities have limited freedom to impose additional local taxes.

4. Planning and development opportunities

Planning agreements can ensure funding for the provision and management of urban green space in and around new residential and commercial developments. Such funding can be used only for new development.

5. Bonds and commercial finance

In some countries, local businesses and residents can vote to allow the local authority to receive loan funding from bonds that can be repaid, including interest, over a period of up to 30 years, to fund urban green space. English local authorities are not currently permitted to issue voter-approved bonds.

6. Income-generating opportunities

Opportunities for generating revenue income, such as licensing and franchising, sponsorship, entry fees and fines, are ways in which funding from the private sector and users of urban green space can be sourced.

The report highlights Mile End Park, which raises around 50 per cent of its annual budget from income-generating opportunities sited within the park, which include shop units, a go-kart track, café franchises and the hire of pavilions for weddings, conferences and exhibitions.

7. Endowments

Endowments, such as those historically accumulated by the Corporation of London, provide long-term funding for urban green spaces from the interest gained on investments. The Corporation manages around 4,000 hectares of green space in and around London using funding that comes primarily from historical property investments. New endowments will generally be beyond most organisations.

8. Voluntary and community sector involvement

Not-for-profit organisations and voluntary and community groups can contribute time and labour, raise funds and encourage community development and local ownership of urban green space.

In New York, the not-for-profit organisation Central Park Conservancy has raised more than $300 million from individuals, corporations and foundations and has taken over most of the day-to-day maintenance of the park including the cleaning of facilities, repairs and capital improvements.