Tamsin Fudge Head of Projects and Stewardship at Fields in Trust, highlights how the charity’s partnership working with local authorities is helping to protect as much of our vital green infrastructure as possible.
I had the privilege of presenting to the APSE Northern Region meeting in January this year, and hope that this shorter, snappier version will be of interest to the wider APSE membership. I thought it would be good to include information on the flexibility built into our legal protections, to do a little myth-busting for anyone thinking about protecting their green spaces with us.
Fields in Trust has been working with local authorities and landowners for almost 100 years, to legally protect parks and green spaces forever. That said, we still only protect about 6% of the parks and green spaces across the UK. And we’d like to protect even more.
As the UK’s only charity that champions the value of parks and green spaces, we know how pivotal they are to several priority agendas local authorities are addressing: climate change mitigation, levelling-up, pandemic recovery, health and wellbeing. Our mission is to work with you to ensure green spaces are around to contribute to your strategies for generations to come.
Parks are a non-statutory function, and they are at risk of loss to development. We are ready to partner with local authorities who want to work at scale and capture large proportions or all of their green space portfolios under our protection. The act of protecting green spaces is a demonstration of their value to people and the planet, and a vital resource needed to achieve a range of objectives.
We know that local authorities are under pressure from many angles, to provide their communities with the housing, services and infrastructure needed. So it’s important for any local authority to know how to balance these pressures with protecting a green space forever with Fields in Trust.
We protect land through a Deed of Dedication in England and Wales, and through a Minute of Agreement in Scotland. During the drafting of the legal documents, we ask you to take into account future plans for the land, parts that may need to be omitted, plans for extending car parks or adding buildings or hard standings, things like that. We do this to minimise the need for potential alterations in the future, and because we know these spaces work hard for local authorities and must adapt as the needs and communities around them change.
Once a space is protected, we provide an ongoing stewardship service for leases, easements, wayleaves, adaptations to the space and buildings, and land transfers. Many of the changes a local authority might want to make, won’t need our approval, such as updating the public amenities. But some changes require our approval, such as new buildings or extensions to car parks. This approval process ensures that the original recreational purpose of the land is upheld. You can find out more about this by searching ‘field change requests’ on our website https://www.fieldsintrust.org/field-change-request
There are times when a green space or part of it is needed to solve a local problem - a new hospital or school for example – and there is no other land option. That is where our disposals policy kicks in. In these cases, we will ask you to find an area of land of the same quality and size (or bigger) to provide as a replacement green space that can be protected with us. Ideally it will also need to service the same community as the original protected space. Our mission is to protect as much green space as possible forever, but we do not expect every blade of grass to remain unchanged.
We are currently working with Liverpool City Council which is the first local authority to commit to protecting 100% of their parks and green spaces forever - benefiting community health and the local environment. Wrexham County Borough Council has committed protect their ten country parks as part of a drive to carbon neutral operations, and The City of Edinburgh Council is also protecting most of its urban parks ensuring most residents are within a ten-minute walk of a protected green space. We are also in early discussions with six other local authorities to protect at scale. Protecting large portfolios is an efficient way to make the most significant impact for local communities and the environment.
We ask each partner local authority to collaborate on a funding and communications plan and to sign a partnership agreement with us. As a charity we need to make sure that we maximise these amazing programmes of work to ensure our sustainability and to really shout about the future-proofing choice the local authority has made.
Other than our protection programmes, we have a lot to offer from our annual ‘Green Space Index’ which is packed with great data to help you understand how your green spaces are supporting your communities and where your attention may be best focused https://www.fieldsintrust.org/green-space-index. The 2022 analysis will be launched in May. As well as our, benchmarking tool for planners and landscape architects designing recreational open space - the ‘Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play’ which 75% of local authorities use regularly. And to support you in the future we are now exploring how green spaces, especially those that are protected, are contributing to climate change mitigation.
Legally protecting your green spaces with Fields in Trust is a flexible and sustainable way to ensure the greatest impact for people and the planet, now and for the future. If you would like to know more or are ready to partner with us, drop me a line and let’s get started. Tamsin.Fudge@fieldsintrust.org •
Tamsin will be speaking on this topic alongside Chris Lomas, Assistant Director Environment, Liverpool City Council, at the upcoming APSE Parks Seminar in Manchester on 30 March. Click here to book your place.