Parks and green spaces are often at the heart of our communities, however neglect of these spaces can create a detrimental effect on the environment and local residents. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is committing £1.35 million to create new pocket parks or renovate existing parks that have fallen into disrepair, especially where it can be shown that physical changes to these areas would have great positive impact on the local community.
Building on the success of the 2018 Pocket Parks Plus Scheme, the Pocket Parks scheme provides support through grants given to community-led bodies working with their local authority, with the aim of bringing existing spaces up to a usable, inviting and safe standard or creating new pocket parks. The aim is that these new and improved green spaces will have long-term benefits such as bringing communities together, tackling loneliness and isolation and improving health and wellbeing.
Pocket Parks are defined as pieces of land of up to 0.4 hectares – although many are as small as 0.02 hectares, around the size of a tennis court – which may already be under grass, however is undeveloped, unused or derelict. The government has set an upper limit on the size of the new green spaces to support communities in the development of smaller, derelict plots in neighbourhoods close to communities who will use and benefit from them. There is no prescribed idea of what a Pocket Park will look like, with the aim of community-led design at the forefront of the scheme.
The government expects to allocate grants of up to £25,000 for renovation of existing parks, and up to £15,000 for new parks, reflecting evidence from previous programmes about the amount needed to make an impact with an area of green space.
The government states in their Pocket Park prospectus that making physical changes to a park to allow access for those with limited mobility, one that we greatly welcome to create an inclusive community. It should be noted however that the scheme does not include funding for repairs or general maintenance, which remains the responsibility of the local authority. Therefore more pressure needs to be placed on our local authorities to ensure the funding continues for the Pocket Park once the initial grant has been given to ensure the longevity of the scheme.
The application for a Pocket Park must be a community-led proposal, coming from a voluntary sector group. The applicant must demonstrate in the proposal that there is a need for community activity or green space to address a specific local need. Some examples of this may include communities that want to address issues with community cohesion; communities that have identified local people have lower levels of physical activity; or areas with a high population of young families or older people and have identified social isolation as a concern. The application must combine details of this community need with relevant evidence and data such as lack of green space; deprivation indices; social isolation; or health inequalities.
We hope that the Pocket Park scheme allows local authorities and the communities they serve to open more dialogue together about the needs of the residents and work alongside each other to ensure applications have the highest chance of success.
The deadline for an application is 5:00pm on 31 December 2019 – if you are involved in your local community and/or want to find out more information about the Pocket Park scheme, contact us for more information. You can also reach out to us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.