Millions of pounds could be invested in Sheffield’s parks and public spaces as part of a new strategy looking at the city’s parks and green spaces over the next five years.

Sheffield City Council has set out its ambitions for the city’s parks with a new five-year strategy that could see millions invested to improve Sheffield’s green spaces.

Sheffield has 74 public parks and nearly 1,000 other green spaces across the city, which are all loved and valued assets within the communities they serve. Many people rely on access to parks for family days out, time outdoors and physical activity.

Some of these parks, such as Endcliffe and Millhouses are extremely popular leisure destinations and already have brilliant facilities for visitors, but many, while offering beautiful surroundings and quality play equipment, are lacking in other amenities.

Councillor Mary Lea and Ian Turner, Parks & Public Realm Manager at SCC at the Sheffield Winter Garden

Sheffield’s parks could provide some of the best opportunities for new facilities and activities but with so many parks to maintain little money remains for investing in improvements. The new Building Better Parks strategy allows the council to consider applications for new facilities in a fair and consistent way, that not only maximises the potential benefits for park users, but protects the parks for generations to come.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said:

“We’re very proud of our parks in Sheffield but we know some provide a better visitor experience than others and we want to improve this. I’m very pleased to approve the new five-year strategy which enables us to explore a wide range of possibilities and fulfil our parks’ true potential.

“We maintain and improve our parks to the best of our capabilities and there are many exciting opportunities we would love to pursue but there is only so much that can be done with our ever-reducing budget.

“Businesses that operate within our parks are already contributing to some of our most-loved sites such as Endcliffe, Millhouses, Hillsborough and High Hazels, where cafes, tennis courts, children’s rides and more improve the experience for visitors.

“Through Building Better Parks we can bring together all potential income streams including grant funding, volunteering and business partnerships, to provide new business opportunities, bring back unused land and assets and create real leisure destinations for the whole city, but even better still, we can generate sustainable income that will guarantee our parks can thrive.

“I’d like make it explicitly clear that the council will not be selling any park land and that under all circumstances the parks will remain under council ownership and control.

“Our 13 Green Flag Awards are testament to the quality of our parks, and using some of our £1.2m Public Health investment we’ve improved ten parks this year alone, including the major transformation at Norfolk Heritage Park. Now we have the chance to keep this momentum going for the next five years to make Sheffield’s parks some of the best in the country.”

Building Better Parks sets out our proposal for Sheffield’s green spaces for the next five years aiming to sustain and improve them, especially in areas of the city where the health benefits that good quality parks provide, are most needed.

The strategy demonstrates the council’s ambition and showcases the possibilities for parks and countryside across the city.

The council’s overall approach to investment in parks for the period 2018 – 2023 focuses on seeking out and securing new income from areas such as new capital grants and new revenue streams.

The council has already committed £1.2m of Public Health funding from 2017 to 2020 to improve parks and, considering funding already secured, it is estimated that around £8m – the highest amount of investment in decades – could be available for investment in facilities across the whole city over the coming five years.

Park Runners in action at Norfolk Park
Park Runners in action at Norfolk Park

A robust assessment criteria and checklist has been agreed for any proposals for operator leases and licences put forward and this way, the council will retain ownership of its green assets. But as each site and proposal will be unique in its offer the council’s approach will be flexible and apply common sense within the agreed assessment process.

The council has a track record of managing successful partnerships with providers in parks. Recent capital investment from the Lawn Tennis Association has seen the development of tennis courts at High Hazels, Hillsborough, Millhouses and Graves parks and the introduction of a specialist operator who now runs low cost tennis participation and coaching programmes. This partnership not only brings income into the city but has increased participation and accessibility in tennis across several areas of the city.

The Parks & Countryside’s service has already carried out voluntary informal consultation with some stakeholders and interested parties from across the city including some Friends of Groups and existing park operators.  Further consultation will now be undertaken.

Building Better Parks was approved at the authority’s Cabinet Meeting today and will now be introduced as a formal decision-making framework for facilities and improvements to parks.

Mountain biker at Parkwood Springs. Photo by Duncan Philpott.

More information about submitting a business proposal to operate in a Sheffield park will be published in the coming weeks.

People with parks related enquiries can contact the Parks and Countryside Service on 01142 500500 or email parksandcountryside@sheffield.gov.uk.

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