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You are right to be intimidated! It’s a complex and complicated business, but one that can be very rewarding, like any other community action.
The first thing we encourage groups to do is to think about their own motivations – why do you want more control of the park? Is it a response to a threat (this is often the case), or is it because you see opportunities? Different members of your group may have different motivations and aims – one of the key tensions within land-based groups can be the one between the people who want to act in their spare time to save or preserve something, and between those who want to generate a livelihood for themselves from the land in some way.
The next thing to do is to look at the park itself: what are the challenges? What are the opportunities? What assets does it have? where could you do things differently or better?
The next thing will be to approach your local authority. Some, like Lambeth in London, are actively open to community management of their parks (see http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/consultations/cooperative-parks) – others have already signed management contracts with the private sector.
Parks often have multiple contracts, contractors, leases, concessions and council budgets that affect them. It can be very hard for councils to disaggregate the budget for one particular park (which can be a similar issue to buildings) but considering this, starting small may be appropriate. Are there corners of the park that you could turn into food growing space? Is there a building to take on? Could your group hold part of the reactive maintenance budget, for example, to respond more quickly when certain things need doing?
It will all depend on two key things though:
1) the motivations, energy and skills of your group: why would you want to do this and what are you aiming at?
2) the willingness of the council to engage with you in a constructive way. Remember that councils are multi-headed beasts and are often unclear within themselves about these things.
One final thought: Are there other organisations close by that you could team up with? Often a critical mass of parks / space is needed to make things work financially. Equally, a local development trust or community organisation that isn’t currently running green space may be able to meet some of its objectives by beginning to do so, with the right support…
Sounds really interesting Kate. We’ve been thinking of taking over a local park in the South East, but one the differences is that many of our group think the idea is quite intimidating – it doesn’t seem as simple as taking on a building. We all use/live in buildings so know generally what’s involved, but its a bit more difficult to know where to start with our local park.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by kateswade.