Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), explains how lottery money is helping transform parks and green spaces across the UK.
I love spending time in the open air. Often, of course, that means in a park or garden. We are so lucky in this country to have such a wonderful variety of green spaces. Did you know that roughly half of us say we use a park at least once a week? Or that there are between four and five billion visits to parks each year? And many of those parks have wonderful histories and are great spaces for wildlife as well as people.
HLF grants have been making a huge difference to all types of heritage for over 17 years – from iconic historic buildings and the environment to smaller community projects. We are particularly proud of our Parks for People programme which provides investment for public parks.
Today we have announced £12.4m of confirmed HLF grants for parks in Scotland, and England – much-loved spaces in Clydebank, Felixstowe, London, Newcastle and St Helens are all benefiting from our support. We have also jointly awarded with the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) a further £3.5m for parks in Nottingham and Godalming. These green spaces are perfect for getting close to nature, relaxing and escaping the stresses of daily life. We believe that every community deserves a well-kept park within easy reach and HLF/BIG are committed to making that happen!
Green spaces for communities
We have been working with BIG for five years and together have pumped over £600m of lottery money into public parks and green spaces. Without this investment many would have reverted back to how they once were – run-down, neglected and often unsafe. It’s not just about physically restoring landscapes and features but also about creating hundreds of much-needed new jobs and training opportunities, and putting the heart back into communities.
We should celebrate the fact that Britain invented the municipal park and influenced its development across the world, particularly in Europe and America (with Birkenhead Park on the Wirrall acting as the model for New York’s Central Park). Memorable features in the past often included magnificent horticultural displays, ornamental bandstands and lakes with exotic wildfowl. Much of this legacy was subsequently lost and lottery funding has now allowed us to restore them and make them fit for use by 21st-century visitors.
I’d like to ask everyone not to be complacent about looking after their local park, particularly in these difficult financial times. If you love it or think it needs a helping hand then why not get in touch with your council and let them know or join your park’s Friends Group and get stuck in! There are lots of opportunities to be involved and learn new skills. GreenSpace’s Love Parks Week begins on 23 July. For more details about HLF/BIG support for parks and how to access funding visit our website.
Photos by Stephen Perry.