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BIG backed scheme puts volunteers at heart of parks

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Release date:
14 2 2013

Vital green spaces across England that are at risk of decline due to significant funding cuts are to be supported through a Lottery backed ‘Love Parks’ project announced today.

Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is awarding £416,450 to GreenSpace’s ‘Love Parks’ project which will see a nationwide network of trained volunteers created to help conserve parks and green spaces up and down the country.

NHS evidence* shows that an estimated £2.1bn could be saved in healthcare costs if every household in the country had access to quality green space, yet recent research** by parks charity GreenSpace indicates a 30-40% cut in spending on green space in some areas.

In light of this, Love Parks will work to  empower communities to become confident local champions at the heart of protecting, conserving and improving their local green space. Training, resources and networking will equip volunteer groups across England with the knowledge they need to work with their local managing authorities and on challenges ahead, such as declining standards, loss of facilities or reduced commitment to maintaining activity programmes.

Nat Sloane, England Chair of the Big Lottery Fund says: “Public parks are vital places which bring significant health and wellbeing benefits but we are experiencing hard times and as a result of this the vast majority are facing significant reductions in funding. The grant awarded to GreenSpace today not only demonstrates BIG’s commitment to support unique and innovative community projects in England but also our ongoing commitment in this area. We hope that this project will ensure that parks are still there for the next generation to benefit from and enjoy by bringing whole communities closer together and giving them the tools they need to protect their local green space.”

To date, community involvement has made a substantial contribution to the improvement of green space with an estimated half a million volunteers working in up to 4,000 community groups, improving their local environment and reclaiming neglected green space. But in spite of this large number, access to training and knowledge has been limited.

The funding from the Big Lottery Fund will enable GreenSpace to support and grow their existing Community Network and create a new training and knowledge share programme, building a movement of more influential and effective volunteers.     

The launch of GreenSpace’s ‘Love Parks’ project marks the start of their Love Parks Week campaign, which aims to raise awareness of parks by encouraging people to organise and attend events during the first week of the summer holidays (27 July – 4 August 2013). Last year the campaign saw 1.4 million people enjoying over 1,200 events across the week; showcasing a vast range of park activities and the benefit of quality, local green space. For more information, visit www.loveparksweek.org.uk.

Paul Bramhill, CEO of GreenSpace says: “We are absolutely thrilled to be able to respond to community groups needs and assist in minimising the imminent threat to parks and green spaces. This essential training resource will not only improve groups’ knowledge but also give communities belief that they can do something to protect their local green space. It will celebrate and share the success of the existing volunteer commitment to green spaces and endeavour to help managing authorities with a people movement rather than hinder. Parks need a voice and this is it.”

The grant awarded to GreenSpace today builds on the Big Lottery Fund’s ongoing funding for public green spaces where since 2006 it has jointly invested £640million with the Heritage Lottery Fund to transform over 700 historic public spaces in the UK.

Read about four volunteer groups that have made a positive difference to their local park in ‘Volunteers in action’

Some interesting facts about parks

NHS supporting evidence on the importance of green space and health

• Environmental volunteering, including tree planting, can be as effective as aerobics in improving fitness.
• People living closer to green spaces are more physically active and less likely to be overweight or obese than people living furthest from public parks who are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese.
• People who live within 500 metres of accessible green space are 24% more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.
• In England people living closer to green space have lower death rates and less heart disease.

*Source: NHS Forest, Evidence http://nhsforest.org/evidence

Further Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Ask BIG a question here: https://ask.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Follow BIG on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BigLotteryFund #BIGlf
Find BIG on facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund

Notes to Editors

• *Evidence taken from NHS Forest, which can be accessed at: http://nhsforest.org/evidence
• **Research from the GreenSpace report: ‘Impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2011/2012’ which can be accessed at: http://www.green-space.org.uk/csrsurvey/

About BIG:

• The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
• The Parks for People programme uses Lottery funds to support the regeneration, conservation and increased enjoyment of public parks and the conservation of cemeteries. The programme aims to improve the local environment and put parks firmly back at the heart of community life.  HLF and BIG will continue to fund public park projects from FY 2013/2014 to FY 2015/2016 with a joint investment of £100m.
• BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded over £4.4bn.
• The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
• Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £29 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
• Over 170 delegates gathered at the Royal Geographical Society on 25 October 2012 for the HLF/Big Lottery Fund UK Public Parks Summit. The day included presentations from park experts from the USA and Denmark, as well as the UK, including an address from Communities Minister Don Foster

About GreenSpace:

• GreenSpace is a registered charity which works to improve parks and green spaces by raising awareness, involving communities and creating skilled professionals. For more information please go to www.green-space.org.uk.
• GreenSpace began the Love Parks Week campaign in 2006 with a simple aim: to encourage people to visit, enjoy and take pride in their local parks and green spaces. The first year 240 events took place with 96,000 attendees attending. Over the next six years the campaign made huge steps forward, building up to 1,100 events and 1.4 million people taking part in Love Parks Week 2012. People can get involved on Twitter by using #Parksmatter and #Loveparksweek