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Green Spaces Issue

Issue 1
"Not all social groups benefit from parks and green spaces"

Here is an abstract addressing the issue from Green Spaces, Better Places - final report of the Urban Taskforce.

2.4 Serving needs

  1. Although parks and green spaces are popular with most people, we are concerned that some groups are missing out on their benefits.
  2. Some people never use green spaces. Older people may feel threatened by young people; young people may feel censured by older people. parents worry about the safety of their children, and that there is nobody 'on duty' to keep an eye on things and stop undesirable activities which frighten others. Poor access may keep people away from their local parks because they do not feel safe enough to journey to them by foot. Or it may simply be that there is no decent green space anywhere near that offers even the basic facilities and standards that people want.
  3. Some sectors of society are using green spaces less than others: especially people over 65, people with disabilities, people from black and minority ethnic communities, women, and 12 to 19 year olds. particular deterrents for these groups include dog mess (all groups, especially women and older people); poor access, toilets, seating and other facilities, and safety (people with disabilities); nothing to do (teenagers); vandalism and graffiti (all groups, especially older people and people with disabilities). Concerns expressed by children and young people in our focus groups are summarised in Box 7.
  4. Policy makers and service providers need to interpret categories of users and usage carefully, particularly when assessing local needs, and target provision to particular areas and groups. For example, dog owners may also be disabled people, as well as parents of young children; older people may be members of ethnic minorities as well as keen horticulturalists.
  5. People in disadvantages areas are also most likely to be losing out on the benefits of good quality parks and green spaces. The Public Park Assessment (2001) showed that, in the 100 most deprived authorities, 40% of all parks are declining, and that figure rises to 88% for the parks already judged poor. These areas are suffering greater levels of decline from an already low base, which adds to both the reality and perception that these neighbourhoods are getting worse.
  6. Public policy should not be allowed to reinforce inequalities in urban areas. Local authorities and national government should make it a priority to provide high-quality parks and green spaces to people in disadvantages areas through the many regeneration and renewal programmes which target such areas. They can do this by working with local people to develop better assessment of the needs of people for green spaces, carrying out audits of the 'fitness for purpose' of existing provision and better targeting of new provision - See Section 6.2.
  7. Changing social needs, such as the presence of a wide diversity of cultures within communities (including within black and minority ethnic and other communities), demand special efforts to reach groups which might otherwise be excluded. Polity makers and service providers should also appreciate that needs, demands and expectations will differ in different places and should 'listen for' different expressions of needs. These can include demands from children and young people for small neighbourhood spaces to 'chill out'; from extended families for space to hold picnics because their gardens are too small, and from people with disabilities for accessible space. professionally defined and categorised needs will only provide part of the picture. Engaging with local people to find out what they want is the only way to complete it.
    We recommend:
    (R1) The Government and local authorities working through local strategic partnerships where appropriate should make it a priority to provide high quality parks and green spaces to serve the needs of people in disadvantaged areas. This objective should be at the heart of regeneration and neighbourhood renewal programmes which target such areas.
  8. Communities are not always defined by residential location. There are some parks - for example, in city centres - where the community is the 9-5 business/employees group. This leads to different, but equally important, issues for consultation, involvement and partnerships (see Section 6).
  9. All the people of a city should have access to good quality parks and green spaces close to where they live, work, and play. This is particularly true of the poorest in society who are disproportionately dependant on quality local public and green spaces.

Further information/resources

Green Spaces, Better Places is a ODPM publication.

The material quoted is Crown copyright. Copies of this important report highlights and addresses of a whole range of important issues.

Copies of this report are available from:
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
PO Box 236, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7NB
Tel: 0870 1226 236 : Fax: 0870 1226 237 : E-mail:

The Taskforce report is available from:
ODPM free publications 0870 1226 236

The government has now responded to the report.
The responses are:
Living Places - Cleaner, Safer, greener, product code 02UP00687, and a summary, available from:
ODPM free publications 0870 1226 236
Living Places - Powers, Rights, Responsibilities, available from:
DEFRA publications 08459 558000

Green Space Issues Papers

Black Environment Network ran focus groups in Manchester and Birmingham on the involvement of ethnic groups in the use, the care and improvement, and creation of green spaces. BEN identified members of the BEN Network who are environmentally aware, and who are positioned to give a considered picture of issues around green spaces within their communities. A series of papers aim to look at some of the issues raised. The papers will address 3 areas of involvement:

A. Increasing the use of green spaces by ethnic groups
B. Involving ethnic groups in the care and improvement of green spaces
C. Enabling ethnic groups to participate in the creation of green spaces

A. Increasing the use of green spaces by ethnic groups

Guidance Paper 1 - Consultation
Black Environment Network - January `03

“Many members of our communities are not aware of green spaces locally and further afield. Their use of green spaces is limited. Members of the communities are unsure of what is available in terms of activities. They are uncertain as to whether what is offered may be suited to their social and cultural needs. However given the right opportunities, ethnic communities would feel encouraged to participate.”

Manchester Green Spaces Focus Group

One of the key ways forward is consultation. There are different scenarios for consultation, long term and short term exercises which build up a dialogue with ethnic groups.

Building a relationship in the long term

Those who are locally responsible for green spaces need to:

  • put consultation on the agenda of their policies and strategies and action plans
  • address organisational culture change as appropriate in relation to ethnic inclusion
  • identify personnel who will have the responsibility for building a relationship with ethnic communities written into their job description
  • train relevant personnel to acquire the awareness and skills to work effectively with ethnic groups
  • monitor progress and review working practices

Getting started

Those responsible for green spaces need to establish confidence within local ethnic groups in order to engage with them through a first consultation to kick off the process of involving ethnic groups in the use of green space. They need to:

  • identify key organisations which can assist and facilitate contact with ethnic groups, e.g. Black Environment Network, the local Racial Equality Council
  • conduct meetings with the contacts identified to explain what the aim of the consultation is and how the envisaged process of engagement with ethnic groups will result in benefits to ethnic communities
  • ask for the assistance of these contacts to identify and encourage appropriate members of the community to take part in a consultation exercise
  • ask for the assistance of these contacts to formulate the content of the consultation.
  • respect the input of members of the ethnic communities, some of whom may be the development workers or management committee members of ethnic community groups. If the time input is substantial, offer to make a cash contribution to the relevant community groups to enable them to bring in temporary workers to share the workload.


Use participatory consultation techniques. You can:

  • use professional consultants skilled in participatory techniques to design and run the consultations
  • or you can use professionals to train identified members of the community to use participatory techniques and facilitate the consultation
  • or identify someone within the ethnic community, not always possible, who has participatory consultation skills to run the session. For a successful example see Green Space of the Month : Kafel Centre. Swansea, in the Green Spaces section of the BEN website. The Muslim community used an experienced member of the community ran a consultation day, in this case, to get ideas to create a new green space.

If you are starting off cold, having only established contact with a limited number of contacts to assist you, increase the stake of the community in your consultation effort:

  • identify a venue which belongs to an ethnic community group and pay them for the venue and catering
  • get a designer and printer within the ethnic community to print a leaflet for you and consult with them re the content
  • pay a fee to a youth group to get their members to physically go out and distribute them
  • look for and replicate successful examples in which ethnic groups are given an attractive reason to come to a consultation and get involved, e.g. Abbeyfield Park in Sheffield was under-used by the local ethnic groups. They proposed a music and cultural festival and work to involve all the ethnic groups in the area to take part. Months of engaging with the park, culminating in the festival, gave the ethnic groups a real sense of ownership. See Green Space of the Month : Abbeyfield Park.Sheffield in the Green Spaces section of the BEN website.

Responding to the consultation

There is now nothing more important than making some kind of positive response quickly:

  • you do not need to immediately respond to everything but you must be seen to be responsive. Select some things which you can do and do them. Make sure ethnic groups hear about what you have done
  • ensure you can feedback to everyone who took part in the consultation. Some may be happy to give you names and addresses. Additionally post the feedback on the notice boards of a range of ethnic community organisations local to the green space
  • promote what you have done and lay down the basis for either more consultations in the future

Follow up actions

Building a relationship is an ongoing thing. A first consultation is a significant breakthrough. Keep up the momentum but work at a possible pace:

  • a few people may be interested enough to form a working group with you. As part of the feedback, invite participants to put themselves forward
  • be real. Follow up good ideas put forward by the participants. Address issues as you can, involving them in solutions. If there are things which you cannot do, explain why.
  • as part of the feedback, make a date for a visit during which you can personally walk people around the green space and explain what is on offer
  • if you have activities which need skills, offer taster programmes to newcomers to these activities as part of the feedback. For newcomers, inroads into new activities must be free. Very few people will pay for something they know nothing about. Once they are interested there are funding schemes such as Awards for All, to which disadvantaged groups can apply to fund whole programmes of activities.
  • make friendly visits to the new contacts you have made. Continue the conversation to give further information about your green space and the activities and opportunities available. Set the agenda for further involvement and take action together

Going into the future with confidence

Sometimes it is a tall order to expect immediate confidence from staff new to the area of work that is involving ethnic groups. Ensure that:

  • training is not just one off and that developmental support is available. organisation support is in place.
  • commitment of adequate resources in terms of personnel time, volunteers and cash.
  • as a learning organisation you monitor, make time review progress and attend to the development of this area of work
  • give prestige and status to this work. Give space to it in your Annual Report. Be proud of your achievements. Flaunt them ! Let everyone know.

As the work develops, it may be that the involvement of ethnic groups can also bring resources into the green space. Community groups can apply to funds such as Awards for All for the costs of taking part in activities or running activities such as festivals in a green space.

Further into the future, the use of the space and the benefits it gives to ethnic groups will result in ownership. Look forward to their future contribution as volunteers, and in time to come, as members of committees or your board.

Useful information

Ethnic Communities and Involvement in Green Spaces -BEN Focus Group.Manchester. Click for link onBEN website.

General information on ethnic environmental participation. See Resources section of the BEN website for many downloadable items including:

  • Roots Culturfest
  • Working with disadvantaged groups on environmental projects - some guidelines”
  • There are many courses relating to community development and building relationships with target groups, e.g. look at the training programmes of NCVO.

For advice, consultancy on action plans, training and developmental support relating to working within the physical environment:

- Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation

- Black Environment Network (see Training section on BEN website)

“Working with disadvantaged groups on environmental projects - some guidelines” is downloadable free on this website in the Resources

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