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The Urban Parks

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Programme is funding a facelift for many well used but poorly cared-for historic parks around Britain Lottery prize for urban parks

Among the major lottery winners are Britain's urban parks. They are now the subject of a special lottery fund scheme for restoration, if they were created 30 or more years ago and have some heritage merit, which is felt to apply to pretty well all parks.

The initial argument about content was won by the heritage camp, achieving a focus on restoration rather than anything more broadly creative. The assumption is that these parks are shabby and unsafe, not least due to cct, and in need of sprucing up, rather than their being redundant and in need of redesign. The concept may have changed since Robert Eden said of the proposed Battersea Park in 1843: 'Many people would become orderly if pains were taken to provide for them healthful recreation.' But urban parks are still popular, currently used by 40 per cent of the population.

Known as the Urban Parks Programme (upp), the lottery award scheme was launched on 29 January 1996, to run for at least three years, or probably at least up to the next lottery licence negotiation.

The upp definition of parks includes other outdoor spaces such as town squares, town moors, seaside promenade gardens, memorial gardens and historic cemeteries. Funding has so far gone to 170 restoration schemes, typically by 75 per cent funding to local authorities. Initially this is for the preparation of a restoration plan, with grant awards of £5000-20,000. Plans include analysis of historic quality, intended restoration works and programmes for practicable subsequent care. Even up to the 1970s, parks could have seven or eight gardeners - unthinkable today.

Of the awards made so far, most are at this plan stage. About a third have gone further to be formally awarded funding for works. Normally works are valued at £100,000 upwards. The largest and most recent is the £6.9 million awarded to Battersea Park last month.

Awards can cover:

restoration plans

purchase of land

landscape improvements, for part or whole parks

repair of historic structures, such as fountains, bandstands, glasshouses and their collections, such as in Sefton Park, Liverpool

reinstatement of vanished features

reinstatement of gates, railings, etc

paths, lighting and signage

long-term planting, including restoring historic designs

some amenities such as wcs and children's play areas, but not major new sport and leisure facilities such as pools or open-air theatres

some management costs.

Management is one of the successes of the upp, according to Stuart Harding of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The fund has promoted the post of Park Manager to include implementing restoration and in the longer term to manage maintenance and development. This is needed in an industry where work is increasingly outsourced and skill levels are falling. Funding for the post is for up to five years, with the local authority having to commit itself to make a park manager a permanent post thereafter.

Urban green space may have started out mainly for the elite, but its subsequent development for wide public enjoyment has helped make the upp one of the least controversial of the lottery funding initiatives.

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