Paul Rabbitts    

BA (Hons), MLA, FRSA, FLI
Author, Parks Historian & Speaker

Parks Research & Guidance

GATHERING THE EVIDENCE


The aim of this section is to highlight significant research that has been carried out over the years. This will be a challenge as an incredible amount of research has been carried out over many years and continues to this day. Politicians are still demanding evidence and whilst it is frustrating for those of us working in the sector, we still seem to be having to provide. Thankfully there are many academics out there still coming up with excellent well considered evidence as to why parks are important to us. This includes the University of Sheffield, University of Leeds, and a number of others. We also have considerable evidence from the now defunct CABE Space, from the National Trust, Nesta, as well as organisations such as the RSPB. Fields in Trust have been active in evidence gathering in the value of green space on health, wellbeing and GreenSpace Scotland are exemplars in evidence gathering. 


This section will grow and is very much a start. 

CABE Space research

A Guide to Producing Park and Green Space Management Plans - CABE Space

This guide was produced to enable anyone involved in the management of publicly accessible parks and green space to write management plans that help them to manage, maintain, develop and improve their green space in the most appropriate way. The guide was the result of discussions between CABE Space and a range of stakeholders. In particular feedback both from applicants and potential applicants to the Green Flag Award scheme and from its judges suggested that many applicants were experiencing difficulty in putting good plans together. CABE Space recognised the potential benefits that effective management plans can bring, and was keen to promote their wider adoption. Government also recognised the contribution of quality green spaces to building sustainable communities, and in delivering the former Liveability agenda. The organisations involved in the production of this guide tried to make recommendations that fit a wide range of circumstances and applications, ensuring that the people responsible for managing parks and green space do not have to produce several different versions of their management plan depending on its intended use. Managers should, however, be aware that these various programmes would still expect their specific requirements to be incorporated in a management plan submitted to them. 

The guide can be downloaded here

Open Space Strategies - CABE Space and Mayor of London

Great parks, squares and streets make for a better quality of life. A network of well-designed and cared-for open spaces adds to the character of places where people want to live, work and visit. Open spaces also provide the vital green infrastructure that enables us to deal with floods or mitigate and adapt to climate change while providing wildlife habitats, sporting facilities or beautiful parks. Open space is now firmly part of statutory and community planning processes. Comprehensive planning policies for open space are fundamental to social inclusion, community cohesion, health and well-being. A shared, strategic approach to open space maximises its potential to contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable future at local, regional and national level. This document offers clear, practical guidance to local authorities and their stakeholders on how to prepare an open space strategy. For local authorities that have already completed an open space strategy, it also gives guidance on delivering, monitoring and reviewing a strategy. There are also examples of strategies in action from around England, reflecting different themes.
Download the guidance here  

Green Space Strategies - A good practice guide - CABE Space


This guide is designed to steer authorities through the process of drawing up effective strategies based on clear assessments of stakeholders’ needs and wishes. It will help provide a blueprint for working in partnership with other landowners and managers and with local communities to deliver excellent parks and green spaces now and in the future. It is aimed primarily at local government but its good practice advice will be useful to anyone with responsibility for the planning, design and maintenance of green spaces. The guidance draws on the principles of the Government’s Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (PPG17) and will help authorities contribute to national objectives for better public spaces. This is not just a planning document, however; green space issues cut across most local authority functions and a sound strategy will help achieve corporate objectives for improvement to environment, recreation, leisure and social regeneration. Strategic joined-up thinking about green space benefits everyone. Download the document here

The Value of Public Space - How high quality parks and public spaces create economic, social and environmental value - CABE Space


This important document covers:- 


  • The Value of Public Space
  • Introduction
  • The Economic Value of Public Space
  • The Impact on Physical and Mental Health 
  • The Benefits for Children and Young People
  • Reducing Crime and Fear of Crime
  • The Social Dimension of Public Space Movement in and Between Space
  • Value from Biodiversity and Nature References

You can download the document here


Skills to Grow - Seven priorities to improve green space skills - CABE Space


Skills to grow was a significant document. It brought together, for the first time, the efforts of national green space partners and other interested organisations in tackling this issue. The major challenges and opportunities were highlighted, as are the many different initiatives and programmes that are going on in the green space sector. 

Opportunities for further action are put forward.

What is clear is that this is still a complex issue with potentially far-reaching consequences for the future of green spaces. As such, Skills to grow represented a significant first step in a more ambitious process. Much of this is still relevant today. 


You can download the document here

Managing green spaces - Seven ingredients for success - CABE Space


Examines how the organisation and structuring of parks and green space services affects their performance.

Managing green spaces: seven ingredients for success brings together evidence to assist green space managers, corporate decision-makers and advisors in deciding the future of services. It sets out seven ‘ingredients for success.’ It also outlines the resources that green space managers can draw on to describe the critical services that green space provides to local communities.

The research was carried out for CABE between 2009 and 2010 by the New Local Government Network (NLGN)


You can download the document here


Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health - CABE Space 


Investigating the relationship between urban green space, inequality, ethnicity, health and wellbeing in the largest study of its kind in England.

Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health examines the impact of the quality of local green spaces on the health and wellbeing of people in six deprived and ethnically diverse areas. It shows that providing good quality local green space is an effective way to tackle inequality.

It will be of interest to policymakers and those working in local government, social housing and the voluntary and community sector.


Download the document here


Urban green nation: Building the evidence base - CABE Space


No one knows exactly how many green spaces there are in our urban areas, where they are, who owns them or what condition they are in. Our new report starts to fill this information gap.

Urban green nation: building the evidence base starts to fill the serious green information gap, by compiling and analysing data at a national level. The summary presents the main findings of the research and the full report contains more information about the data, sources and indicators used.

The report is be of interest to policymakers and decision makers in central and local government and anyone interested in understanding more about England’s urban green spaces.


Download the document here


Helping community groups to improve public spaces - CABE Space


A summary of research by CABE into the main barriers facing community groups in improving public spaces.

Helping community groups to improve public spaces

Throughout the country, gardens, allotments, play areas and other public spaces are being transformed for the better by groups of local residents. These community groups often contribute hundreds of hours of volunteer time and considerable expertise, but sometimes they lack the practical support they need.

This briefing is primarily for local authorities but will be of interest to other public space managers such as housing associations. It recommends ways to support community groups that are working to improve neighbourhood spaces and points to other organisations that can offer additional advice.


Download the document here

Making the invisible visible: the real value of park assets - CABE Space


Explaining why traditional accounting methods are unhelpful when valuing assets – such as parks – that can appreciate over time.

Most councils assume that each park they own is worth just £1. Why do they do this? What are the implications for maintenance and investment?

Making the invisible visible explains why traditional accounting methods are unhelpful when valuing assets – such as parks – that can appreciate over time. It suggests a new way of valuing our parks which takes better account of the financial value they bring to society.

Making the invisible visible is for parks and green space managers, finance professionals, asset managers – and anyone who wants to know more about valuing the physical assets within parks.


Download the document here

Public space lessons - improving green space skills - CABE Space


Explaining why better skills are so vital to the green space sector, with tips on what can do to improve them.

The green space sector is suffering from an acute lack of skills, with a shortage of professionals such as landscape architects and green space managers and inadequate training and career development opportunities. This is leading to poor quality green spaces and an under-valued workforce on poor pay.

There is a much greater understanding of the many benefits that good green spaces can bring to society, but without investing in the workforce these will not be realised.

This briefing explains why better skills are so vital to the sector now, and gives useful tips on what green space organisations can do to improve them.


Download the document here


Public space lessons - Improving park performance - CABE Space


Explaining the value of TAES - Towards an excellent service for parks and open spaces - and how it works in practice. Useful for everyone working in green space services.

Improving park performance

The performance of local authority green space services is under more scrutiny than ever before, with increasing expectations from both the public and the government. Planning for improvement can be tricky, but now help is at hand, thanks to a dedicated self-assessment tool from CABE Space.

‘TAES’ – towards an excellent service for parks and open spaces – is designed to help green space teams get a clearer idea of their own performance and how to improve. This briefing explains the value of TAES and how it works in practice. It will be useful to everyone working for and with green space services.


Download the document here


Paying for parks - Eight models for funding urban green spaces - CABE Space


Guidance for green space managers and regeneration professionals, as well as a call for a strategic rethink about how we resource these valuable assets.

Paying for parks

There is increasing recognition of the value of well-designed, managed and resourced parks and green spaces.Yet finding funding, in particular long-term revenue funding, remains a significant challenge. Paying for parks: eight models for funding urban green spaces responds by setting out the main funding mechanisms for green spaces, in the UK and abroad. Some could be replicated immediately, while others will take longer to implement and may require fiscal or legislative change. Paying for parks is a useful reference for parks and green space managers and regeneration professionals, as well as a call for a strategic rethink about how we resource these valuable assets.


Download the document here


Urban parks - Do you know what you're getting for your money? - CABE Space


Summary of survey investigating whether more money guarantees better parks, asking local authorities whether the results reflect their own experiences.

Urban parks

In parks, as in most things, you get what you pay for. Or do you?

For decades, parks were deprived of investment. Their quality declined. Now, more resources are being ploughed back into parks and urban green spaces. And quality seems to be improving.

But is it really that simple? Does more money guarantee better parks? Would a 10 per cent increase in funding lead to a 10 per cent increase in quality? Do some councils deliver better parks for their money than others? This publication summarises a survey which tried to find out, and asks local authorities for feedback on whether the results reflect their own experiences.


Download the document here

Parks Need Parkforce - CABE Space 


Sets out the case for increasing the number of on-site park staff in order to create safe, popular and beautiful urban parks and green spaces.

Parks need parkforce

Parks need parkforce sets out the case for increasing the number of on-site staff to create safe, popular and beautiful parks.


Download the document here


Decent Parks? Decent behaviour?  - CABE Space


Providing evidence that good design and management, not just heavy handed security measures, are the key ingredients for safer parks.

Decent parks? Decent behaviour?

Decent parks? Decent behaviour? The link between the quality of parks and user behaviour is a new report providing evidence that good design and management, not just heavy handed security measures, are the key ingredients for safer parks.


Download the document here


Does Money Grow on Trees? - CABE Space


Examining how well-planned and managed parks, gardens and squares can increase the value of nearby properties and attract people and inward investment.

Does money grow on trees?

Does money grow on trees? looks at how well planned and managed parks, gardens and squares can have a positive impact on the value of nearby properties and can attract inward investment and people to an area.


Download the document here


Is the grass greener...? Learning from international innovations in urban green space management - CABE Space


Illustrating how cities from Melbourne to Minneapolis are improving their residents’ health, wealth and quality of life by investing in parks and green spaces.

Is the grass greener?

Is the grass greener…? Learning from international innovations in green space management demonstrates how 11 cities from Melbourne and Minneapolis, to Curitiba in Brazil are improving their residents’ health, wealth and quality of life by investing in parks.


Download the document here

Nesta and Rethinking Parks 

Rethinking Parks is funding and supporting organisations to develop innovative ways of managing and financing the UK’s public parks. The projects aim to make sure our parks and greenspaces are financially sustainable for the future and that they are run more impactfully for their local communities.

There is an incredible amount of case studies and research here

Fields in Trust Research

For a number of years, Fields in Trust have been carrying out research on the value of green spaces and in particular:- 


The Green Space Index is Fields in Trust's barometer of publicly accessible park and green space provision. Our Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces research demonstrated that these spaces across the UK provide people with over £34 billion of health and wellbeing benefits. We believe that green spaces are good, do good and need to be protected for good. Through the Green Space Index, we are taking stock of the nation's quantity of local parks and green spaces and providing analysis on its impact.


Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces: Measuring their economic and wellbeing value to individuals is research conducted in line with HM Treasury best practice in valuing non-market goods. This research provides a robust economic valuation of parks and green spaces in the UK as well as valuing improvements in health and wellbeing associated with their frequent use. It is the first study on parks and green spaces to apply welfare weighting methodology allowing for more informed evidence-based policy decisions.


Want to know more about their work, the link is here

The Heritage Fund

The saviours of many of our most valuable parks, the Heritage Fund have invested nearly £1 billion in public parks across the UK. One of the most important pieces of research that was carried out was the State of UK Public Parks in 2016. 


This second State of the UK Public Parks report shows that there is a growing deficit between the rising use of parks and the declining resources that are available to manage them. Based on new surveys, the findings show that while parks are highly valued by the public and usage is increasing, park maintenance budgets and staffing levels are being cut.

The research calls for collaborative action to deliver new ways of funding and managing public parks to avert a crisis.

Without urgent action the continuing downward trend in the condition of many of our most treasured parks and green spaces is set to continue.  Whilst new ways of working and generating income are showing potential, more support, shared learning and collaboration is needed to support those that manage public parks.


There is much more here and download the report here


Academic Research

The Future Prospects of Urban Public Parks - University of Leeds


Public parks are long-standing and familiar features of the urban environment. For many people, visiting parks is an integral part of everyday life in the contemporary city. Yet parks in the UK are at a possible ‘tipping point’, prompting important concerns about their sustainability. Parks face essential challenges over funding and management, as well as questions of unequal access and competing demands on use. This study of public parks in the city of Leeds focused on how they have changed through time, how they are used today, and what their future prospects might be.


Download the report here


More information here

"Invest in parks and green spaces to boost wellbeing across the city, say researchers" The University of Sheffield
More funding should be made available to improve, maintain and encourage people to connect with green spaces in cities, to allow residents to reap the health and wellbeing rewards they can provide, according to researchers. Link to the article is here.

The Gardens Trust

Uncertain Prospects - Public Parks in the new age of austerity - The Gardens Trust


In July 2016, the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced a new inquiry into the state of public parks. The Gardens Trust submitted a memorandum, prepared by Dr. Katy Layton-Jones, who was then called as an expert witness to appear on behalf of the Trust. In November 2016, Uncertain Prospects was published, celebrating the parks renaissance which has been achieved since 1993, but warning of the desperate future many now face as a result of local authority spending cuts.  The effect of these varies widely between authorities – some are predicting an end to parks maintenance within the next couple of years, others are seeking to make parks self-financing, while others are throwing their weight behind the voluntary sector. 


The document can be downloaded here

Historic England

History of Public Park Funding and Management (1820–2010) - Historic England 

There are an estimated 27,000 public parks in Britain and 2.6 billion visits to parks each year. Many of these parks are of historic and cultural interest, and some 300 are registered as nationally important. For over a century, the vast majority of public parks have been provided and run by local authorities but these authorities have no statutory duty to fund or maintain public parks. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s new State of UK Public Parks (September 2016) highlights that “92 per cent of park managers report their maintenance budgets have reduced in the past three years and 95 per cent expect their funding will continue to reduce”. In July 2016 the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced an inquiry into public parks to examine concerns that public parks are under threat. Historic England commissioned Dr Katy Layton-Jones, a cultural historian and historical consultant, to provide an overview of past public park funding models, and their management. Her research findings show a long history of funding problems but also the important role of local authorities in developing, and often rescuing parks, and delivering public parks for all over 170 years. Historic England has included this research report in its submission to the inquiry as in looking for new funding solutions we also need to understand why funding issues have arisen. The research report will be of interest to local authority portfolio holders, parks teams, friends groups and urban historians. 
Download the document here

National Review of Research Priorities for Urban Parks, Designed Landscapes, and Open Spaces - English Heritage

This report provides a précis of recent research in the field of urban parks, designed landscapes and open spaces. Communities and park managers have endured decades of uncertainty regarding their local parks and many have lost battles to protect historic green spaces from development, vandalism and decline; suspicion and scepticism are common sentiments among communities, local authorities, and even professional bodies. While the historical significance of these landscapes is being challenged, the need for English Heritage to research the history and reassert the historical and contemporary significance of urban parks and designed landscapes is pressing. Only by returning to the history of urban parks and open spaces can English Heritage develop a reputable and trusted approach to their protection.

The document can be downloaded here

IWUN

What planners and local government policymakers need to know


This briefing draws together findings from a three year research project1 examining the many ways in which ‘urban nature’ supports mental wellbeing. It used a variety of research methods to understand how natural and green spaces across the city of Sheffield relieve mental stress and help residents to thrive. The purpose of this briefing is to inform people working in spatial planning, or whose work connects with planners, of the evidence from our research and what it means for practice. While our research was based in Sheffield, we have drawn out lessons that apply more broadly to urban areas in the UK.


Download the document here

Groundwork 

Communities taking action - Groundwork


This report is based on a survey of community groups and interviews with community group leaders. The views and experiences that community groups involved in this research shared paint a picture of the social infrastructure that those taking action in their communities value and rely on.

Up and down the UK, people are getting together and making things happen in their communities. From community gardens to youth clubs, Friends of Parks groups to local sports clubs, people give up their time to improve the quality of life in their neighbourhood. While the government’s Civil Society Strategy says that it wants people to be empowered to take responsibility for their neighbourhoods, it pays little attention to the voices and needs of community groups who are doing just that.

This research set out to address three questions:

  • What motivates people to get involved in action in their communities?
  • What benefits are realised as a result of community action?
  • What support and resources are needed to enable communities to take action in their local area?

The report can be downloaded here

Other research

UK natural capital accounts: 2019

Estimates of the financial and societal value of natural resources to people in the UK. Office of National Statistics


Link is here


Urban green spaces raise nearby house prices by an average of £2,500 - Office of National Statistics

Urban properties close to public parks, gardens and playing fields are more expensive, analysis reveals. Explore your area to see how much green space adds to the value of your property. The link is here

Why Greenway Parks Cause Greater Gentrification
While green spaces are often linked to gentrification, new research shows certain types and characteristics of urban parks play a much greater role than others. The link is here
‘Nature prescriptions’ would be cheap way to improve country’s mental health, study finds
Link to article here
For green cities to become mainstream, we need to learn from local success stories and scale up
Link to article here
Villiers: Net zero ambition will drive growth in UK green spaces
Link to article here
The Closer You Live To Nature The Happier You’ll Be, Study Finds
Link to article is here